Federal Express said it will raise prices by 3 percent on most domestic and international shipments, following a similar move by rival UPS. FDX, the parent company of FedEx, blamed rising fuel costs for the increase, which is to go into effect Feb. 1. United Parcel Service announced Wednesday that its shipping rates will increase Feb. 7. UPS commercial rates for air service will increase 3.5 percent while commercial rates for ground services will rise by 3.1 percent. UPS said its rate increases were unconnected to high fuel costs.

New claims for jobless benefits dropped unexpectedly last week to a level that economists said indicates businesses are scrambling to find workers. The Labor Department said new claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 9,000, to 274,000, for the week ending Dec. 25, the 12th consecutive week that jobless claims have been below 300,000. Economists consider jobless-claims levels below 300,000 indicative of an extremely tight labor market.

Boeing, locked in a battle for new orders with Airbus Industrie, said its commercial aircraft deliveries rose about 10 percent this year, to a record 620. Boeing also said it was on track to deliver 480 aircraft in 2000, which it said was 50 percent more than its European rival. The company said its previous record for deliveries was 559 in 1998. "One of the biggest factors this year was the requirement [for airlines] to replace Stage 2 or noisier aircraft by Jan. 31, 1999. That was a real push," said Randy Harrison, a Boeing spokesman.

Help-wanted advertising in major U.S. newspapers dipped in November, the Conference Board said in a report that predicted the country's labor market will remain strong. The business-financed research organization said its help-wanted ad index slipped to 85 in November from 86 in October, after hitting a two-year low of 83 in September. It was 89 one year ago.

Symantec said a recent update to its Norton Antivirus software causes malfunctions in the latest editions of Intuit's Quicken personal finance software. A Symantec update issued Monday can cause Quicken 2000 to run more slowly or stop working altogether, the company said. A new update that corrects the error is now available over the Internet.

CommTouch Software's shares soared after the provider of outsourced e-mail and messaging services said Microsoft has exercised a warrant to purchase 4.7 percent of its stock. The purchase was made at $28.25 a share for a total of $20 million. Shares of Commtouch, an Israeli company that operates from Santa Clara, Calif., rose $11.62 1/2, to $49.12 1/2 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Sprint reached tentative three-year contract agreements with union locals in five states and continued talks with a local in Florida as a midnight strike deadline approached, the company said. Sprint reached tentative contract agreements with Communications Workers of America locals representing about 2,830 workers in North Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia. Florida's local represents 650 workers.

INTERNATIONAL

The Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges are considering a link-up to the booming Nasdaq market, officials said. A Nasdaq spokesman confirmed that the stock market was exploring several options with Canadian exchanges. Barbara Stymiest, president and chief executive the Toronto Stock Exchange told Canada's National Post newspaper that such alliances could see the exchanges listing one another's most actively traded stocks.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda was awarded a $1.23 billion Pentagon contract to begin building the F-22 stealth jet fighter. The money will go toward building six test aircraft. The Air Force had sought $1.8 billion for the program for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, but Congress pared it back after weeks of contentious debate between the House and the Senate.

Black & Decker will pay a $575,000 civil penalty to the Consumer Product Safety Commission for failing to report defects in one of its toaster lines quickly enough, the agency said. The commission also alleged that Black & Decker withheld consumer complaint information and important engineering documents during the commission's investigation. The Spacemaker T1000 Type 1 toasters, which was sold between 1994 and 1996 and is still under recall, can cause food to burn, the commission said. The Towson, Md.-based company said it had violated no law.

Washington Gas Light said it will reorganize its corporate structure, creating a holding company known as WGL Holdings. The utility company, Washington Gas, and its subsidiaries will become separate subsidiaries of the holding company. Chairman James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr. said the new structure will aid the company in competing more effectively as the industry becomes more competitive.