Microsoft's purchase of Visio, a developer of design and drawing software, received Justice Department antitrust clearance, Visio said. The $1.26 billion purchase, announced in September, is the largest acquisition yet by Microsoft.

New-home sales fell more than expected in November and the number of Americans filing jobless claims rose, the government said, providing signs that the economy may have begun to slow. The Commerce Department reported the number of new single-family homes sold in November fell 7.1 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 865,000 units, which was far short of the 926,000 pace that economists had predicted. The Labor Department said the number of people filing for state benefits jumped by 33,000 last week, the largest one-week rise in a year.

BP Amoco will decide within 10 days whether to offer more concessions or fight moves by antitrust regulators to block its $37 billion buyout of Atlantic Richfield, a person familiar with the company said. Though BP Amoco said it still hopes to negotiate a settlement, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky is unlikely to back the buyout under any terms, other people familiar with the dispute say, because of his concern that further consolidation of the oil industry endangers competition.

In the first prosecution under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act, a federal judge in Ohio sentenced a man to six months of home confinement and fined his Taiwanese corporation $5 million for stealing trade secrets. Four Pillars Enterprises was accused of stealing trade secrets concerning adhesives from Avery Dennison. An Avery Dennison research scientist testified that he provided Four Pillars with confidential information. Pin Yen Yang, the former chief executive of Four Pillars, was fined $250,000 and given six months of home confinement and 18 months of probation. His daughter, former Four Pillars executive Hwei-Chen "Sally" Yang, 41, was fined $5,000 and put on probation for one year.

The World Bank will make an electronic bond offering for a minimum of $3 billion, a new sign of the growing importance of online financing. Online brokerages including Fidelity and Schwab will take part in underwriting, offering stakes to retail customers.

Worldwide sales of semiconductors rose 18 percent in 1999, to $160 billion, and will increase even faster this year on rapid growth in Internet use and mobile phones, according to Dataquest. Intel dominated with sales of $26 billion, about $16 billion ahead of second-place NEC. Motorola, which had been No. 3 worldwide, fell to sixth place after selling part of its business.

Cisco Systems, the biggest maker of equipment for data networks, unveiled a product designed to let consumers link multiple computers and home appliances to a single Internet account. Whirlpool and Sears will develop the appliances with Cisco and Sun Microsystems.

Wal-Mart Stores and venture-capital firm Accel Partners said the two companies will make the Web site of the world's largest retailer an independent company. "It's our intention that the company [Wal-Mart.com] will pursue a public offering at the appropriate time," Wal-Mart spokesman Jay Allen said. Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart will hold a majority stake in Wal-Mart.com Inc., which will have its own management and a headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., the companies said.

Pension fund manager Alan B. Bond entered a not-guilty plea in federal court in New York to charges he took almost $7 million in kickbacks from brokerage firms in connection with his management of retirement accounts. A federal indictment last month accused Bond of using his clients' accounts to trade with brokerage firms connected to his friend Robert Spruill.

Franklin Mutual Advisers, whose chairman, Michael Price, pushed Dow Jones & Co. to divest its Telerate unit, sold more than 1 million Dow Jones shares in the fourth quarter of 1999. The sale reduced the money manager's stake in the publisher of the Wall Street Journal to 2.9 percent from 4.7 percent of common shares outstanding.

Microsoft has formed an alliance with booksellers Barnes & Noble and Barnesandnoble.com to sell electronic books that are read using Microsoft software. Terms were not disclosed.

INTERNATIONAL

DaimlerChrysler joined Ford and two major oil companies in withdrawing from the Global Climate Coalition, a business-backed organization that has been one of the most outspoken skeptics on global warming and one of the most vehement opponents of the Kyoto Treaty designed to reduce emissions from fossil fuels that have been blamed for global warming. BP Amoco and Royal Dutch/Shell quit the coalition previously, more recently followed by Ford.

EARNINGS

Lehman Brothers Holdings said fourth-quarter earnings more than quadrupled, to $301 million, driven by a surge in securities trading revenue and gains in investment banking.

LOCAL BUSINESS

VarsityBooks.com announced it would enter into a three-year marketing agreement with America Online. D.C.-based VarsityBooks, the online equivalent of a college campus store selling textbooks and other goods, will pay Dulles-based AOL $9 million to be prominently featured on AOL's ICQ instant-messaging service, which has been wildly popular among teens. AOL will also receive warrants to buy up to 3 percent of VarsityBooks stock.