The American Stock Exchange's three top executives -- chairman and chief executive Salvatore F. Sodano, President Peter Quick and General Counsel Michael J. Ryan Jr. -- received notices from the Securities and Exchange Commission as part of an investigation into options trading and regulatory issues at the exchange, Amex confirmed. The so-called Wells notices allow the executives to make statements to the SEC before its investigators decide whether to take civil action against them.

AOL to Invest in Internet Travel Firm

America Online will buy an undisclosed minority stake in Kayak Software, an upstart in the Internet travel business that aims to lure customers away from dominant industry players such as Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity. The investment is part of a larger AOL strategy to establish stand-alone businesses that attract an audience beyond AOL's Internet service customers. The company is also telling broadband subscribers in nine Southern states that they must find a new carrier by Jan. 17. Those who do not will have their accounts reverted to AOL's traditional dial-up service.

MORE NEWS

Mortgage rates rose this week. Freddie Mac's weekly survey said rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.76 percent for the week ended yesterday, up from 5.70 percent last week. Fifteen-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 5.16 percent from 5.08 percent. One-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.16 percent, up from 4 percent.

PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed accounting clients and found that 80 percent are either struggling to meet or probably will miss deadlines for certifying that their financial controls are effective as required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Micron Technology, the world's No. 2 maker of computer-memory chips, struck a deal with the Justice Department to shield it from sanctions after an investigation found that some employees were fixing prices. The investigation found evidence of collusion by Micron and competitors in the $16.7 billion market for dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips, Micron said. The Justice Department is investigating Micron, Infineon Technologies, Samsung Electronics, Hynix Semiconductor and other chipmakers.

Disney's largest union group voted down a contract proposal and authorized leaders to call a strike if necessary, saying the proposed wage increase was too small to offset rising health care costs. A strike is unlikely soon because union officials plan to request federal mediation.

Computer Associates International's former general counsel Steven Woghin was barred from practicing before the SEC for his role in a $2.2 billion accounting fraud at the company. Woghin pleaded guilty Sept. 22 to charges stemming from his role, the same day former chairman and chief executive Sanjay Kumar was indicted.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia named Susan M. Lyne as president and chief executive, replacing Sharon Patrick. Lyne, former president of Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Entertainment unit, was elected to Martha Stewart Living's board in June. Patrick will resign, the company said. The media and housewares company is trying to restore its image and regain its financial footing after founder Martha Stewart's obstruction-of-justice conviction.

Four former Microsoft employees were charged with stealing $32.4 million worth of software and selling it on the side. Robert Howdeshell, a project coordinator, and three group assistants, Alyson Clark, Finn Contini and Christine Hendrickson, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the computer software supplier and selling products for personal gain.

Marvin Sambur, the Air Force acquisition chief, said he had been cleared by the Pentagon inspector general, which was looking into e-mails he sent in relation to a failed proposal to buy and lease tankers from Boeing. Critics had complained the deal was an expensive bailout for Chicago-based Boeing.

Hartford Financial Services Group, one of four insurers accused by New York state Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer of price collusion with brokers, fired two unidentified employees for not cooperating with his investigation.

SBC Communications said it will spend about $4 billion to build a network for video and Internet access, at the low end of a previous forecast of as much as $6 billion. The local telephone carrier plans to reach about 18 million residences with fiber-optic cables by the end of 2007.

U.S. pensions and endowments gained 0.29 percent for the three months ended Sept. 30, up from a median loss of 0.02 percent for the second quarter, according to a survey of 350 pools, foundations and endowments by Wilshire Associates. The return sought on most private and public pensions is 7 to 9 percent.

INTERNATIONAL

China protested anti-dumping tariffs on some Chinese makers of bedroom furniture announced this week by the U.S. government. The Chinese Commerce Ministry said the tariffs -- which the United States said were imposed on manufacturers that were exporting at unfairly low prices -- violate the free-trade commitments to the World Trade Organization.

Japan's economy grew at an annual pace of 0.3 percent in the third quarter, less than expected, the Cabinet Office in Tokyo reported. Faltering overseas demand for electronics was blamed for the sluggish growth.

Germany's gross domestic product increased 0.1 percent in the third quarter as exports slipped, according to the government's Federal Statistics Office.

Nortel Networks postponed the release of its revenue restatement for the third time. The Canadian company has taken eight months to restate results from 2001 to 2003 as it reviews accounting errors.

EARNINGS

Dell, the world's largest personal-computer maker, said third-quarter profit rose 25 percent over a year ago, to $846 million. Sales were up 18 percent year-over-year, to $12.5 billion.

Target said third-quarter earnings increased 78 percent, to $537 million. Sales were up 11 percent, to $10.9 billion.

Kohl's said third-quarter earnings rose 19 percent, to $143.8 million. Sales rose 15 percent, to $2.74 billion.

Rayovac said fourth-quarter earnings rose 41 percent, to $18.2 million. The battery-maker said revenue was up 50 percent to $377 million.

Pixar Animation Studios, creator of "The Incredibles," said third-quarter profit increased 70 percent, to $22.4 million. Revenue rose 47 percent, to $44.5 million.

American Eagle Outfitters said third-quarter earnings rose to $58 million, from $10.1 million a year ago. Sales increased 35 percent to $503.4 million.

Urban Outfitters said third-quarter profit increased 85 percent, to $26 million. Sales were up 52 percent, to $216.4 million.

Delphi, the world's largest supplier of auto parts, postponed its third-quarter financial report because of a federal investigation into $106 million in transactions with Electronic Data Systems and another company.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

Microsoft said sales of its Halo 2 video game, the sequel to the best-selling title for its Xbox video-game machine, topped 2.4 million in North America. The game sells for $49.99. Halo came from Bungie, a game studio Microsoft bought in 2000. In the game, a genetically enhanced soldier named Master Chief tries to save mankind from an alien force called the Covenant that's attacking Earth.