Washington Gas Light reached agreement with the staff of Maryland Public Service Commission and the Maryland People's Counsel to hold rates steady for five years except in the case of an extraordinary event, such as a tax rate change. WGL also would offer a "weather normalization adjustment" to protect residential customers from sharp swings in their heating costs. If approved by the Maryland PSC, the agreement would take effect July 1.

Martin A. Armstrong, a renowned market forecaster, was ordered by a judge to produce $16 million in gold bars and rare antiquities in an attempt to recover assets of investors who were bilked out of about $1 billion. Armstrong, 50, violated a court order to turn over the valuables to a court-appointed receiver, Judge Richard Owen in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled. The judge gave him until Tuesday to turn over the valuables. Armstrong has pleaded innocent to fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.S. attorney.

Boeing, historically the world's top seller of commercial jetliners, lost the annual order race last year to Europe's Airbus Industrie for only the second time. In figures released on its Web site, Boeing said it received orders for 391 jetliners in 1999, well short of the 417 orders Airbus claimed as of Nov. 30. Airbus plans to release its full-year figures next week.

Coca-Cola said William P. Casey, head of its troubled European division, is retiring and named Charles S. Frenette, now the company's chief marketing officer, to replace him. Casey was in charge of the division when the company announced a massive product recall in Belgium and Poland last year because of a health scare.

Northwest Airlines has alerted some customers who recently used its frequent-flier Web site that their credit card numbers and personal information were unprotected because of a programming glitch. A spokesman said the risk of hackers getting the information is small, but one the airline is taking seriously. Northwest has now notified all affected customers, he said.

Instinet, an electronic trading network used mostly by institutions, said it will open an Internet brokerage for individual investors in April, increasing competition among online brokers such as Ameritrade and E-Trade.

LOCAL BUSINESSColumbia Energy Services, a Herndon-based subsidiary of Columbia Energy Group, completed the sale of its wholesale marketing operations to Enron North America.

U.S. Foodservice said it expects to increase its annual sales rate by $1 billion by the end of its fiscal year in June, from the current rate. That would put the company's revenue above $7 billion, officials said. The Columbia-based distributor of food products said it forecast was prompted by growth in its chain business, better sales promotion and its new e-commerce effort.