American Express said it was suing Visa USA and MasterCard International, along with eight banks, for damages stemming from anti-competitive practices that prevented American Express from issuing cards through U.S. banks. Its suit follows one by Discover Financial Services that also alleges anti-competitive behavior by the nation's two biggest credit associations. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for both actions on Oct. 4, when it let stand a lower court's ruling requiring Visa and MasterCard to allow their member banks to issue competing cards in an antitrust case brought by the Justice Department.

Wrigley Adds Candy Brands to Lineup

Candy and gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. said it has agreed to buy a number of candy brands, including Life Savers and Altoids, from Kraft Foods for $1.48 billion in cash. The agreement also covers the Creme Savers brand, Trolli gummy candies, Sugus candies and other local and regional brands in the United States, Europe, Indonesia and Thailand. Kraft decided recently to cede most of its confection brands to concentrate on selling cheese, meats, Nabisco cookies and Maxwell House coffee. Wrigley officials said the price would be partially offset by about $300 million in cash tax benefits. The net acquisition cost of $1.18 billion represents 2.4 times estimated 2004 sales.

MORE NEWS

An employment discrimination lawsuit against clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has been settled in a multimillion deal that awaits approval by a federal judge. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimated the lawsuit settlement could affect more than 10,000 Hispanic, Asian or black men and women.

Personal computer sales worldwide will rise 11 percent this year to 182.7 million units, less than an earlier forecast of 13 percent, as flat-panel television sets and other electronics products draw consumers away, market researcher Gartner said. Weaker sales of PCs to home users account for all the cut in its forecast, it indicated.

Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, will buy online financial news and information service MarketWatch for about $519 million after its $18-per-share offer beat out other bidders. MarketWatch operates the Web sites CBS.MarketWatch.com and BigCharts.com. Among those expressing interest were Viacom, already a significant stakeholder, New York Times Co. and Yahoo.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension fund, voted to double its investments in hedge funds to $2 billion in an attempt to generate higher returns. The Calpers board also approved tougher monitoring of executive compensation and "golden parachute" severance packages at corporations whose stock it owns.

T-bill rates rose to their highest rate since October 2001. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 2.075 percent, from 2.045 percent the previous week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 2.280 percent, from 2.260 percent last week. The actual return to investors is 2.115 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,947.55, and 2.339 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,884.73. The Treasury Department said yesterday that it will postpone its regular auction of four-week bills because Congress has not yet raised the limit on the national debt.

Sun Microsystems, whose servers run corporate networks and Web sites, will give away Solaris, its newest operating system, with the aim of doubling its sales from service contracts.

RECALL

Gas furnaces sold under Coleman, Coleman Evcon and Red T brands are being recalled by manufacturer Unitary Products Group because they have potential to overheat and set adjacent materials on fire, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said. The 226,000 affected furnaces should not be used until they have been inspected or repaired. The company is fielding calls at 888-665-4640, and more information is available at www.dgatprogram.com. The furnaces, sold between 1995 and 2000, carry the following model numbers:

DGAM075BDD, DGAT070BDD, DGAT075BDD, DLAS075BDD, DGAM075BDE, DGAT070BDE, DGAT075BDE, DLAS075BDE, DGAM075BDF, DGAT070BDF, DGAT075BDF, DLAS075BDF.

INTERNATIONAL

Microsoft signed software partnerships with India's leading outsourcing firms, Infosys Technologies and Wipro. The deals will enable Infosys and Wipro to use Microsoft technologies to build software for their clients.

The United States will begin free trade negotiations with the United Arab Emirates and Oman as part of the Bush administration's effort to promote economic growth in the Middle East. Trade flows between the United States and the United Arab Emirates and Oman totaled $5.6 billion.

Tougher safety standards for vehicle door latches will be adopted by the United States and 21 other countries with the signing of an accord Thursday in Geneva. U.S. transportation officials said most doors will meet the new standard, but it will require changes to sliding doors on minivans and some cargo vans.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Legg Mason of Baltimore said it has agreed to buy four offices of Scudder Private Investment Counsel from Deutsche Bank. The Baltimore financial services company will pay $55 million at closing and up to $26.3 million after one year based on revenue of the acquired offices in New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Chicago.

Sunrise Senior Living said that an independent, Canadian-based real estate investment trust that the company created has issued a preliminary prospectus for an initial public offering. Sunrise Senior Living Real Estate Investment Trust plans to acquire majority interest in 15 senior communities in the United States and eight in Canada.

HCC Insurance Holdings of Houston said it is buying United States Surety Company of Timonium, a company specializing in bonding for small and medium-sized contracts in Maryland and neighboring states. Terms were not revealed.

Universal Security Instruments of Owings Mills, a designer and marketer of safety and security equipment such as smoke alarms, earned $1 million (59 cents a share) on $6.6 million in sales in its second quarter ended Sept. 30. That compares with a profit of $740,446 (43 cents) on $5 million in sales in the same period a year earlier.

Bresler & Reiner, a Rockville-based owner and operator of commercial real estate, reported earnings for the quarter ended Sept. 30 of $981,000 (18 cents), compared with $213,000 (4 cents) for the same period a year ago.

EARNINGS

Electronic Data Systems posted a wider third-quarter loss as it wrote down $233 million in assets on a money-losing Navy contract. The loss was $153 million, down from $16 million in the same period last year. Revenue was $4.95 billion, down from $4.99 billion a year ago. EDS restated its twice-delayed 2003 results to show the $16 million third-quarter loss from 2003. EDS restated the results to redistribute expenses bonus expenses.

Tyson Foods said its fourth-quarter earnings dropped 55 percent, to $66 million, from $147 million in the same period last year. Quarterly revenue rose to $7.1 billion, from $6.6 billion a year ago.

Barnes & Noble said third-quarter earnings fell 25 percent on weak sales of bestsellers. The bookseller earned $7.64 million for the period ended Oct. 30, compared with $10.17 million in the year-ago period. Revenue was $1.46 billion, compared with $1.27 billion.

Lowe's fiscal third-quarter earnings rose 15 percent to $522 million as four hurricanes spurred demand for emergency supplies. Revenue for the three months ended Oct. 29 increased 16 percent, to $9.06 billion.

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

Lionel, which has made model trains for more than a century, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday after a jury ruled the company used stolen toy locomotive designs. Mike's Train House, based in Columbia, sued Lionel in 2000 and was awarded $40.8 million in damages.