Economic Numbers Hold Tech Sector to a Slow Start

But claiming that the last hour counts the most, some are expecting an afternoon recovery.
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Bears may have been rejoicing following Thursday morning's strong economic

numbers that sent the stock market reeling. But remember it's an eight-inning (or hour) game and only the first inning could really be claimed by the bears.

In fact, in an email conversation before the open, Bob Dickey, director of technical research with

Dain Rauscher Wessels

stressed that the last hour of the day, not the first hour of the day, will be the most important. Risk for bears, he wrote, is that the market "will puke on the open, and trade at its low point right away, only to recover the rest of the day," he wrote. "The last hour today is still the most important indicator of the next real move. All the stuff in between is just for fun." Note that

Wednesday, Dickey was focusing on last week's high close of 3793 and the need for the

Nasdaq

to close above there or risk more significant losses.

Early price action seemed to bear (no pun intended) him out. The Nasdaq was barely up 5.69, or 0.2%, at 3635.78 in recent trading, though it had traded as low as 3513.76.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 5.66, or 0.7%, at 809.55 after trading as low as 772.72. Our own

James Cramer

would be the first to tell you he always looks for a silver lining in negative situations, but even he was talking a different tune after this morning's numbers and was taking advantage of the pop to

get out of some long positions.

Among stocks in the news,

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

was down 2 3/8, or 4.4%, to 51 1/8, though it had traded as low as 48 1/2 following the

release of its first-quarter numbers last night. Amazon posted a first-quarter loss of 35 cents a share, a penny narrower than the 26-analyst estimate, though the whisper number was at 34 cents. The company said it nearly doubled revenue and added more than 3 million new customers. Our own

Herb Greenberg

goes in depth to provide insight into one of the key components of Amazon's report -- gross margins -- in a recent

piece, suggesting that they were not as bright as the first glance would suggest.

One of the most balanced comments on the company came from

Salomon Smith Barney

. Salomon, which has done underwriting for Amazon, reiterated a buy rating and a $130 price target on the stock, writing that the quarter was "Amazonian in its strength and weaknesses."

Salomon analyst Tim Albright wrote that, "bulls point at the revenue and customer upside which are the outgrowth of a dominant brand in a highly charged opportunity, while critics can point at ongoing levels of spending which accompany that upside as inherent in the business that Amazon runs. In many ways this was a

Zelig

quarter -- what you want to see is what you get. Our take is that this dominant consumer e-commerce company is in better position than ever to own this giant opportunity, and we'll continue to cross our finger in hopes of seeing the structural leverage that we know exists in this model."

Also,

Prudential Securities

raised its rating on Amazon to strong buy from hold, "based on management's ability to deliver on its promise of moving the business back onto solid fundamental ground." Prudential, which has not done underwriting for Amazon, maintained an $80 price target on Amazon.

Online bill payment provider

CheckFree Holdings

(CKFR)

was up 7 5/8, or 19%, to 47 3/16.

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

and CheckFree announced a pact to speed up payments over the Internet. CheckFree said it will buy Bank of America's electronic billing and payment assets. Bank of America will get 10 million CheckFree shares and 10 million warrants.

Among other companies that reported earnings,

Network Solutions

(NSOL)

was up 3 5/8, or 3%, to 119 after besting first quarter earnings expectations with a 20-cent gain versus the 14-cent estimate.

Verisign

(VRSN) - Get Report

, which has agreed to buy Network Solutions, was up 2 5/32, or 2%, to 101 3/16.

VerticalNet

(VERT)

was up 2 1/2, or 5.4%, to 48 1/2. The business-to-business service provider reported revenue of $27.5 million, 1320% greater than the $1.9 million reported in the first quarter of last year. Its loss of 16 cents a share was far better than the 27-cent loss estimate.

Also,

InfoSpace

(INSP) - Get Report

was down 1 1/16, or 1%, to 63 after reporting a gain of 1 cent vs. the 6-cent loss estimate. The Redmond, Wash.-based firm said it made a pro forma profit of $1.89 million compared to a loss of $5.3 million or 3 cents a share a year earlier. Note that the stock had rallied into its earnings report and was likely seeing sell-the-fact profit taking.

Finally,

BroadVision

(BVSN) - Get Report

was 4 3/16, or 12%, to 36 9/16. BroadVision reported earnings of 4 cents per share, compared to the 22-analyst estimate of 2 cents. The company said it will collaborate with

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

on J2EE technology, which will "enable the delivery of e-commerce information to any device, anywhere," according to a BroadVision press release.