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Off-hours stock trading for regular investors, only recently introduced in the late afternoon and evening, is now stretching into the morning for the first time.

Island ECN, an electronic exchange owned by Web broker Datek Online, is extending its late-afternoon session into the evening and adding a short session before the opening bell on traditional markets like the New York Stock Exchange.

The new off-hours schedule -- from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., both Eastern time -- will begin Wednesday through smaller broker-dealers, but no major brokerage is set to offer the new service yet. A Datek spokesman said the firm expects to introduce morning and evening trading soon.

Many online investors have shown an interest in making portfolio decisions at home, where they have more privacy and time to think. An estimated 20 percent to 25 percent of online trades are currently placed outside normal hours, and then executed when regular trading resumes in the morning.

2 Wall Street giants join Primex
NEW YORK (AP) -- Investment banks Salomon Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter have joined three other big name Wall Street firms in a partnership to operate an electronic trading system that will compete with the traditional stock markets.

In June, Goldman Sachs Group, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Madoff Securities announced the creation of Primex Trading NA, one of a number of electronic communication networks, known as ECNs, that have emerged recently as alternative trading systems to the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The addition of Salomon Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to the Primex partnership is significant because of the volume of trading business the two firms will bring to the new system.

Yields decline on Treasury bills
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Interest rates on short-term Treasury securities fell in Monday's auction with the rate on three-month bills dropping to the lowest level since late July.

The Treasury Department sold $6.5 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 4.660 percent, down from 4.720 percent last week.

An additional $7.5 billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 4.925 percent, down from 4.950 percent. The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors -- 4.794 percent for three-month bills with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,882.20, and 5.135 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,751.00.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, the most popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, fell slightly to 5.28 percent last week from 5.29 percent the previous week.

McKesson sets pact with Wegmans
SAN FRANCISCO (Bloomberg) -- McKesson HBOC Inc., the largest U.S. drug wholesaler, said it will be the primary supplier for Wegmans Food Markets' in-store pharmacies in a four-year contract valued at $280 million.

McKesson, which had been a secondary supplier to closely held Wegmans, will provide pharmaceuticals and services to the 58 pharmacies in Wegmans stores.

Wegmans, based in Rochester, owns 59 supermarkets in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It also owns 16 Chase-Pitkin Home & Garden centers, a commercial baker, an egg farm and meat processing center.

In other business news
Mellon Bank Corp. plans to change its name to Mellon Financial Corp, reflecting the company's attempts to be the best-performing financial services company, Mellon Chairman and Chief Executive Martin McGuinn said today.

The Singer Co. NV, the world's largest manufacturer of sewing machines, is seeking bankruptcy protection while it tries to reorganize its troubled operations. Singer blamed a decline in the international sewing market and last week's bankruptcy filing by a Germany subsidiary. Singer's retail and production businesses will continue operating while it develops a reorganization plan.

Veteran White House correspondent Sam Donaldson will host "," a 15-minute news report that will air three times a week on the Internet only, the network said Monday. The Webcast will air Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:30 p.m., starting Sept. 27.

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