NEW YORK (AP) _ International Business Machines Corp. reported a 1.2 percent drop in first-quarter profits as revenues from computers and software were dragged down by a sharp rise in the dollar's value.

The slower growth in revenues overshadowed surging demand for computer services from the world's largest computer company, which reported results Wednesday.

Still, IBM managed to beat analysts' expectations for profits on a per-share basis, which were boosted by the company's repurchase of $2 billion in stock during the quarter.

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SAN JOSE, Calif.(AP) _ Hewlett-Packard Co., staking a claim for the virtual gold mine of electronic commerce, it will buy VeriFone Inc., a leader in technology for making financial transactions over computer networks.

HP, the nation's No. 2 computer company, said Wednesday it will pay $1.15 billion worth of its own stock for VeriFone, its biggest acquisition ever. VeriFone will become an independent subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard if the deal closes this summer.

The companies said their alliance will combine the strengths of each to help consumers and businesses use the Internet and corporate intranets for making purchases and payments securely.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Bausch & Lomb Inc., still struggling to counter heightened competition in contact-lens and sunglasses markets, said it is cutting 1,900 jobs, or about 14 percent of its work force.

The company's second restructuring in 16 months was disclosed Wednesday along with first-quarter earnings, which plunged to $3.3 million, or 6 cents a share, from $22.5 million, or 39 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

The company didn't specify how much savings would be generated by the job cuts, which will come through a combination of layoffs and attrition. Nearly half the cuts will be in Rochester, home to one-quarter of the company's 13,500 workers.

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Tobacco companies will not win blanket protection from future civil lawsuits in their negotiations to settle health claims with 25 states, Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub said.

The toughened position came as attorneys general face mounting pressure from anti-tobacco activists not to deprive all smokers of the right to sue as part of a massive legal settlement with the tobacco industry.

``There will be no blanket immunity for the tobacco companies, period. We, the attorneys general, will not budge on that issue and I want to make that very clear,'' Ieyoub said Wednesday.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A judge was so shaken by a video of a dying, bone-thin cancer victim that he stopped it after just 90 seconds and ruled that the footage is too strong to show to the jury in a lawsuit against a tobacco company.

The tape, made about six weeks before Jean Connor died in 1995, is ``overly prejudicial,'' Circuit Judge Bernard Nachman said Wednesday. ``If I am so disturbed by seeing what I saw, I imagine a jury would be as well.''

Mrs. Connor, a smoker for more than 30 years, sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1995 after she was diagnosed with the disease.

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DETROIT (AP) _ The United Auto Workers union is escalating its fight to protect jobs at General Motors Corp. as the world's largest automaker continues to trim its work force through attrition.

UAW members walked new picket lines Wednesday at GM's big truck assembly and engineering complex in Pontiac, the third GM plant idled by a UAW strike in two months. The strike was called Tuesday night.

Workers at GM's Oklahoma City car assembly plant have been on strike since April 4. In both cases, the union says its members are being overworked and denied vacation and break time because of inadequate staffing.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The titans of America's electric power industry are generating heat of a different sort on Capitol Hill, a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort over plans to let consumers choose where they buy electricity.

The campaign to deregulate the industry pits power-producing giants eager for new business, such as Houston-based Enron, against traditional utilities such as Commonwealth Edison and Southern Co., which have enjoyed virtual monopolies in their markets for decades.

While the fight ostensibly is about consumer choice and lower prices, some worry that consumers might be trampled as industry behemoths struggle over shares of the $208 billion-a-year market. Last year, two dozen of the top combatants spent $32 million lobbying in Washington, disclosure reports show.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton's latest two picks for the Federal Reserve Board fit the mold of his previous nominees _ moderate, mainstream, well-credentialed. They aren't likely to deter the central bank from its inflation-fighting mission, economists said.

Pending a final screening process, Clinton has selected Michigan economist Edward M. Gramlich and New York banking consultant Roger W. Ferguson Jr.

If the two win Senate confirmation, Clinton appointees would hold five of seven seats on the board of the powerful central bank, which determines borrowing costs for millions of American businesses and consumers and regulates the nation's largest banking companies.

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Saks Holdings Inc.'s stock dropped 33 percent on news the upscale retailer's earnings would drop below expectations and that it was preparing a $290 million bid for Barney's.

Saks, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue, blamed its disappointing performance on weak sales of mid-priced designer labels and at two of its divisions, Off 5th and the Folio catalog.

The earnings outlook, announced late Tuesday, came as Saks said it planned a joint bid for Barney's with Isetan Co., Barney's Japanese partner. Barney's, the New York-based upscale retailer, is in bankruptcy court proceedings.

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By The Associated Press

Technology stocks surged Wednesday, but the broad market sputtered after Tuesday's powerful rally. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 20.87 to 6825.17.

The dollar mostly fell but rose against the pound, gold slipped slightly and bond prices ended lower.

Wheat futures prices fell sharply, while copper and heating oil futures rose.