Applied Materials (AMAT) - Get Report posted second-quarter earnings of 55 cents a share, in line with the 27-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 18-cent profit. The company, which makes semiconductor-chip-making equipment, saw sales jump to $2.19 billion, an 87% increase from the year-ago report of $1.17 billion. New orders grew 19% to $2.93 billion from the first quarter, and were twice last year's $1.46 billion.

Applied Materials forecast third-quarter earnings between 64 cents and 68 cents a share, topping the 25-analyst estimate of 62 cents a share, while chipmaking equipment orders should hit $3 billion. Applied Materials boosted 5/8 to 85 1/4.

Credit Suisse First Boston

lifted Applied Materials' EPS views and urged an aggressive buy based on weakness.

Bear Stearns

analyst Robert Maire said he continued to recommend the stock as a buy and reiterated a 12-month target of 135. Bear Stearns boosted 2000 EPS estimates to $2.37 from $2.20 and 2001 EPS views to $3.47 from $3.

Thomas Weisel Partners

analyst Eric Ross raised revenue and EPS estimates on the stock.

Goldman Sachs

lifted the stock's EPS view to $3.55 from $2.75.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

said it would be an aggressive buyer of shares and sees the stock rising 25% to 45% over the next three to four months.

For more on Applied Materials'

first-quarter earnings, check out

TheStreet.com/NYTimes.com

coverage.

Lands' End

(LE) - Get Report

posted first-quarter earnings of 1 cent a share, well below the 10-analyst estimate of 16 cents and the year-ago 21 cents which includes a gain of 3 cents. The specialty retailer said net income fell about 96% in the quarter on lower sales. The company also said sales in the first half of the year would be less than expected with earnings weaker than a year ago. Lands' End traded up 5 3/4, or 16.8%, to 40.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

British Airways

(BAB) - Get Report

said it launched its Internet travel agency with 10 other airlines in a move by the industry to slash huge ticketing and distribution costs. The travel agency portal also includes

Air France

,

Lufthansa

,

Iberia

,

SAS

,

KLM

(KLM)

,

Alitalia

,

British Midland

,

Aer Lingus

,

Finnair

and

Austrian Airlines Group

. British Airways advanced 2 11/16 to 57 1/2, while KLM edged up 11/16 to 18 13/16.

Leap Wireless

(LWIN)

said Spain's

Endesa

will buy its Chilean wireless operations. Leap Wireless rose 3 9/16, or 8.1%, to 47 3/8.

Office Depot

(ODP) - Get Report

and

America Online

(AOL)

will form a five-year joint marketing strategic alliance valued at more than $44 million. The companies said they will develop a co-branded business site offering online office solutions to small business customers. The alliance will give AOL a presence in all Office Depot sales channels and will put Office Depot's name-brand office supplies and other products in shopping and business-to-business areas across several America Online brands. Office Depot traded up 1/4 to 10 7/8.

Separately,

Blackboard

, a privately held online education software company, said it had secured $30 million in financing from America Online,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Pearson

. Dell slipped 1/4 to 44 11/16, while America Online fell 1/16 to 53 5/8.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(

Earnings estimates from First Call/Thomson Financial. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

said it expects fourth-quarter results to be in line with the 22-analyst estimate of $1.13. Computer Associates jumped 7, or 15.7%, to 51 1/2.

CNA Financial

(CNA) - Get Report

posted first-quarter operating earnings of 45 cents a share, well above the six-analyst estimate of 38 cents and the year-ago 13 cents. CNA added 3 3/16, or 11.2%, to 31 9/16.

Encompass Services

(ESR)

reported first-quarter earnings of 15 cents a share, in line with the five-analyst estimate. Encompass Services slid 1/16 to 6 5/8.

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

reported first-quarter earnings of 27 cents a share, in line with the 21-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago earnings of 22 cents a share. Gap said it agrees with the second-quarter consensus estimate currently for 26 cents a share, but also said it sees same store sales growth for the year in the low-to-mid-single-digit range. Gap rose 2 3/16, or 6.6%, to 35 5/16.

Interim Services

(IS)

reported first-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share, beating the 12-analyst estimate of 35 cents and up from the year-ago 33 cents a share. Interim Services gained 2 9/16, or 14.1%, to 20 3/4.

Kmart

(KM)

posted first-quarter earnings of 5 cents a share, in line with the 13-analyst estimate but down from the year-ago 11-cent profit. Kmart shed 1/8 to 7 1/2.

Loews

(LTR)

posted first-quarter earnings of $2.43 a share, well above the two-analyst estimate of $2.08 and the year-ago $1.54. Loews increased 1 11/16 to 55 3/4.

Mylan Laboratories

(MYL) - Get Report

reported fourth-quarter earnings of 34 cents a share, beating the 10-analyst estimate by a penny and up from the year-ago earnings of 27 cents a share. Mylan Laboratories slumped 7 3/16, or 23%, to 23 7/8.

Navigant Consulting

(NCI) - Get Report

posted first-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, well below the five-analyst estimate of 21 cents and the year-ago 28 cents. The utilities management consulting firm said it would provide an employee stock option exchange program designed to be value-neutral to shareholders. Navigant Consulting was off 2 1/4, or 25.7%, to 6 1/2.

New York Times

(NYT) - Get Report

raised its earnings-per-share outlook to 16% to 18% for 2000, excluding its online unit, and said it is comfortable with its second-quarter estimates. New York Times improved 1 5/8 to 39 1/2.

Pentair

(PNR) - Get Report

said it expects a record year in operating earnings, revenue and earnings-per-share. The company said it expects annual revenue to double to $6 billion by 2005 and expects growth at double-digit rates through the next five years. Pentair rose 2 1/2, or 6.2%, to 42 3/4.

ShopKo Stores

(SKO)

rose 7/16 to 19 3/16 after it reported first-quarter earnings of 9 cents a share, in line with the five-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago earnings of 7 cents a share.

Western Gas Resources

(WGR)

gained 1 5/8, or 8.9%, to 19 13/16 after it reported first-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, including a gain of or 10 cents a share from the sale of the company's unit,

Western Gas Resources-California

, beating the 6-analyst estimate of 18 cents and up from the year-ago loss of 15 cents.

Zale

(ZLC)

gained 3 13/16, or 9.2%, to 45 1/8 after it reported third-quarter earnings of 30 cents a share, beating the 16-analyst estimate of 26 cents and up from the year-ago 17 cents a share.

Offerings and stock actions

Dow Chemical

(DOW) - Get Report

gained 2 7/8 to 117 7/16 after it said it set a 3-for-1 stock split.

Safeguard Scientifics

(SFE) - Get Report

sailed up 2 3/16, or 5.8%, to 40 after it said it approved up to $100 million of share repurchases.

Analyst actions

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst Michael Exstein rated

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

a buy. The stock was added to the firm's focus list. Wal-Mart lost 11/16 to 56 despite the news.

Upgrades

Air Products & Chemicals

(APD) - Get Report

added 3 9/16, or 11.4%, to 34 3/4: NEW buy at

ING Barings

; price target: 45.

Chartered Semiconductor

(CHRT)

inched up 1/16 to 65 1/8: earnings and revenue estimates UP at

Credit Suisse First Boston

.

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

climbed 1 5/8 to 82 5/8 UP to buy from market perform at

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

.

Fundtech

(FNDT)

climbed 1/2 to 24: UP to buy from long-term attractive, near-term price target: 34, 12-month target: 45 to 50 at

Robertson Stephens

.

Downgrades

Duke Energy

(DUK) - Get Report

climbed 1 13/16 to 62 7/16 : DOWN to outperform from buy at

ABN Amro

.

Verio

(VRIO)

inched up 1/2 to 57 7/8: DOWN to hold from strong buy at ING Barings. ING said it does not expect higher bids for Verio after it was acquired by

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone

(NTT)

for $60 a share.

Wit Capital

(WITC)

lost 3/8 to 10 : DOWN to market perform from buy at Thomas Weisel by analyst Geoffrey Beard.

Initiations

Exelixis

(EXEL) - Get Report

: NEW buy at CSFB; price target: 40. Exelixis declined 13/16 to 22 5/16.

24/7 Media

(TFSM)

: NEW price target of 50 at CSFB. 24/7 Media slid 5/8 to 17 5/8.

West TeleService

(WTSC)

: NEW buy at CSFB; price target: 28. West TeleService added 13/16 to 21 15/16.

Group Actions

ABN Amro downgraded its recommended stance on the U.K. and European telecommunications sector, to underweight from in line. ABN cut its three-month rating on

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

to hold from buy, while reiterating a cautious view on companies including

Equant

(ENT) - Get Report

and

Telewest

(TWSTY)

Vodafone advanced 1 15/16 to 41 1/8 and Equant skidded 2 to 69 7/16, while Telewest lost 1 3/4 to 48 1/4..

The bank retained a more positive stance on companies including

British Telecom

(BTY)

and

Cable & Wireless

(CWZ)

. British Telecom jumped 7 15/16, or 5.6%, to 149 3/4 and Cable & Wireless was unchanged at 69 3/8.

Miscellany

Amcore Financial

(AMFI)

tacked on 7/8 to 20 after it said it named Robert Meuleman as its new chairman and CEO.

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

hopped 1 13/16 to 60 5/8 after it said it tapped Kevin Sharer as its new CEO. Sharer is replacing Gordon Binder, who will remain the company's president.

Xerox

(XRX) - Get Report

shed 1 3/4, or 6.3%, to 25 3/4 after it said President and CEO Rick Thoman has submitted his resignation, according to published reports.

MP3.com

(MPPP)

mounted 1 3/8, or 11.5%, to 13 1/4 after it said it would not allow users to access major label songs contained in its database, while it works toward settling a copyright infringement suit brought on by major record companies. Last month, a district judge decided that the company violated copyrights held by major record labels, including

Time Warner's

(TWX)

Warner Brothers Music

,

Sony Music Entertainment

and

Seagram's

(VO) - Get Report

through the development of its

my.mp3.com

database. The database gives users the capability to obtain and store music digitally, and then retrieve it using any computer.

Five large pharmaceutical firms agreed for the first time to discuss with the

U.N.

sharply reduced prices for HIV drugs for developing nations, particularly in Africa. The five companies include

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

,

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

,

Glaxo Wellcome

(GLX)

,

Roche Holding

and

Boehringer Ingelheim

.

Seprately, Merck's pharmaceutical benefits management unit Merck-Medco has begun its tender offer for

ProVantage Health Services

(PHS)

. Earlier this month, Merck agreed to pay $222 million for ProVantage, which manages prescription services for 5 million people.

Merck shares tacked on 1/4 to 68 1/4 and Bristol-Myers fell 5/16 to 53 3/8, while Glaxo edged up 5/8 to 58 11/16.

UAL

(UAL) - Get Report

unit

United Airlines

said some flights have been affected by its pilots declining to fly overtime as the company and its pilots are in the midst of contract negotiations. UAL climbed 3/4 to 61 1/2.

The Heard on the Street column in

The Wall Street Journal

says despite the downturn in technology stocks, many brokerage firms still have heavy weightings of tech stocks in their portfolios though the mix of stock names has changed.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

filed its counterproposal to the government's

breakup plan Wednesday, asking instead for a remedy involving limits on its business practices.

The proposal asks Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who has ruled the software company violated antitrust laws, to set restrictions governing its license agreements with computer makers. The restrictions would prohibit Microsoft from withholding license agreements from companies that ship or promote operating systems other than its ubiquitous Windows system.

The proposal would also require Microsoft to allow computer makers to ship versions of Windows that do not include Internet Explorer, the company's Web browser, as a default browser.

Today, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette reiterated Microsoft at buy with a price target of 140. DLJ said it believes Microsoft "should win on appeal" in its U.S. antitrust litigation. ING Barings reiterated a strong buy and a target price of 135 a share. Microsoft hopped 1 11/16 to 67 7/8.