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BLUE CHIPS FALL

Blue-chip stocks fell late in trading Monday, although other major market indicators rallied. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.76 points to 3,832.02.

TREASURY YIELDS RISE. Interest rates on short-term Treasury securities rose in Monday's auction to the highest level in more than a year and a half. The Treasury Department sold $12.7-billion in three-month bills at an average discount rate of 3.40 percent, up from 3.33 percent last week. Another $12.7-billion was sold in six-month bills at an average discount rate of 3.61 percent, up from 3.53 percent. The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors _ 3.48 percent for three-month bills and 3.73 percent for a six-month bill. In a separate report, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, the most popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, rose to 4.01 percent last week from 3.88 percent the previous week.

Earnings

Roberds stock falls

after earnings report

Roberds Inc. shares fell 36 percent Monday after the company said its profit declined in its first quarter as a public company, Bloomberg Business News reported.

The Dayton, Ohio, retailer said its fourth-quarter profit from operations was $1.5-million, or 25 cents a share, compared with year-earlier net income of $2.3-million, or 40 cents.

Roberds shares closed down $4.75 at $8.50, making it the biggest percentage loser on the Nasdaq system.

The company said profit was below expectations because of lower gross margins from increased advertising costs and price promotions at its furniture and consumer electronics stores.

Budd Bugatch, a furniture industry analyst at Raymond James & Associates, lowered Roberds to "hold" from "buy" following the earnings release. Raymond James was one of the underwriters of the company's $42-million stock offering last fall.

KMART CORP. The retailer said Monday it lost $1.19-billion in the fourth quarter, the results of a billion-dollar restructuring charge and a tough retail climate.

PLASMA-THERM INC. The St. Petersburg company reported Monday net income of $233,148, or 3 cents per share, for the fiscal year ended last Nov. 30. By comparison, the company earned $54,786 the prior year. Revenues fell from $17.5-million to $16.4-million.

Nation

SHAREHOLDERS TRY TO BLOCK DEAL. Some Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. shareholders asked a Delaware court Monday to block the video rental company's merger with Viacom Inc., including its plans to buy $1.25-billion in Viacom stock.

TWO MORE SUE METLIFE. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. has been named in two new Pittsburgh lawsuits accusing the company of using misleading sales practices in Pennsylvania, according to Bloomberg Business News. Policyholder Linda Mickail seeks at least $25-million in damages on behalf of thousands of policyholders who claim they were deceived by the company into buying replacement policies they didn't need. On Friday, Rick Sabo, a fired Pittsburgh-area MetLife insurance agent, sued the insurer, claiming that its former western Pennsylvania chief pressured agents to use deceptive sales tactics. MetLife declined comment. Pennsylvania and Florida are among 17 states investigating the company's sales practices.

CANADIAN COMPANY BUYS NEWSPAPER. The Chicago Sun-Times will be acquired by the Canadian publishing company Hollinger Inc. for about $180-million in cash, the companies said Monday.

Best Mortgage Rate

The best 30-year fixed mortgage rate in the Tampa Bay area as reported Monday was 7.500 percent with 0 points offered by, among others, AAA Mortgage Loans & Investments (813) 799-9999, Bayview Financial Svcs. (813) 854-5262, and Advantage Financial (813) 799-0073. The rate is based on a $100,000 purchase with a 5 to 10 percent down payment. For additional mortgage rate information, see the complete list of rates offered by area institutions in Saturday's Home & Garden section. The information is supplied by National Financial News Services in West Chester, Pa.

Correction

A portion of the Highest Yields chart in Monday Business listing the best seven-day compound yields for money-market mutual funds contained incorrect figures. Here is the correct information for tax-free money funds for the period ended Feb. 23.

Tax-free money funds

1. The FL Tax-Free MMF(k) 2.67

2. Evergreen Tax-Exempt MMF(k) 2.60

3. First Union T-F MMP Trust Shares (k) 2.52

4. Dreyfus BASIC Municipal MMF 2.49

5. Fidelity Spartan CA Muni MMP (k) 2.47

k _ fund manager absorbs portion of expenses.

Source: IBC/Donoghue's Money Fund Report, Ashland, Mass., 01721. (800) 343-5413.

DOW DOLLAR YIELD

30 industrials vs. Japanese yen 30-year U.S. bond

3832.02 104.60 6.65

-6.76 -0.25 -0.06

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