Markets: Closed yesterday

European shares reached all-time highs, boosted by strong performances in the media, telecommunications and technology sectors and in the London, French and Dutch stock exchanges. The Dow Jones Stoxx index of 600 European companies jumped 2.1 percent, or 6.97 points, to a record 343.86. The telecom index was the best performer, gaining 4.8 percent; Vodafone AirTouch, the biggest stock in the telecom index, rose 7.4 percent, helping London's FTSE 100 index to a 1.8 percent gain, to a record 6682.8. Amsterdam's AEX index rose 1.7 percent to a record close, and the Paris CAC-40 index jumped 2.5 percent.

A protest over genetically modified cotton prompted demonstrators to seize cotton underwear from Marks and Spencer's new flagship store in Manchester, England. The value of the clothing was not given. The store said it had not moved to remove the modified cotton products from its shelves because there did not appear to be calls from consumers to do so.

Aer Lingus, Ireland's state-owned carrier, said it would cooperate with British Airways and American Airlines under an agreement that will lead to it joining their Oneworld alliance. Aer Lingus and British Airways said they aim to extend initial cooperation from joint frequent-flier plans to marketing, sales and cargo. Aer Lingus also plans to coordinate frequent-flier programs with American Airlines and to start selling seats on each other's transatlantic flights starting in mid-2000.

Bank of Scotland's takeover offer of $35.5 billion for rival National Westminster Bank won approval from the British government, which ruled that the unsolicited takeover did not raise competition concerns. National Westminster's stock rose 9 percent, to $23.59 a share, after the announcement.

Honda Motor denied a report that it is an acquisition target of DaimlerChrysler, which is seeking to expand into the small-car market. The report by a German business weekly said DaimlerChrysler was more interested in buying Honda, which is profitable and has a strong presence in Asia and North America, than in acquiring Italy's Fiat or France's Peugeot.

Japan's cabinet said it will take on a record amount of debt to help finance a $172.5 billion supplementary budget to boost the economy. The package is aimed at helping Japan's economy grow this fiscal year for the first time in three years, but it comes at a price: Japan's debt this year will balloon to a record $367.6 billion, making it one of the world's most indebted nations.