Net Sector Up, but Droopy Treasuries Keep Gains in Check

Prodigy Communications rises on news SBC is acquiring a 43% stake.
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Internet stocks were meandering along with the rest of the market near midsession, with a slightly positive tone in place.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 11.56, or 1.2%, at 960.39. It was approaching the all-time high of 970.31 made on Friday. Technology stocks continued to perform well, though weakness in

Treasuries and profit-taking were keeping gains in check.

Prodigy Communications

(PRGY)

was off highs, but still trading higher after

SBC Communications

(SBC)

said it was

acquiring a 43% stake in the Internet service provider. Prodigy will manage SBC's 650,000 dial-up, ISDN and basic digital subscriber line Internet customers, raising the ISP's subscriber list to more than 2 million. SBC, the nation's biggest local telephone company, intends to add 1.2 million more Internet customers to Prodigy over the next three years. Prodigy was up 1 1/4, or 4%, at 33 3/8 after trading as high as 35 7/16.

CMGI

(CMGI)

was up 8 13/16, or 7%, at 133 11/16 after it said it had launched the

CMGI @Ventures B2B Fund

, a venture fund to be focused exclusively on business-to-business Internet venture capital investments. The fund is expected to reach up to $1 billion in capital.

Online Advertising Trade Group Formed

Shares in

DoubleClick

(DCLK)

,

Flycast Communications

(FCST)

and

AdForce

(ADFC)

rose Monday after they and other Internet advertising companies, including

24/7 Media

(TFSM)

and

Engage Technologies

(ENGA)

, said they had formed a new trade organization to focus on standardizing online advertising practices.

The first priority of the new

Advertising Standards Alliance

is to set up a procedure the group hopes will more accurately measure the activity of networks that sell space on a variety of different Web sites. "We're not getting credit for all the things we are doing," says Flycast Chief Operating Officer Lyn Chitow Oakes. Within six months, the participating companies hope to change the way they code Internet ads to better track the number of Internet users who see them and the frequency at which the ads are delivered. The alliance says it has the cooperation of third-party ratings services, including

Nielsen NetRatings

and

Media Metrix

(MMXI)

.

In recent trading, DoubleClick was up 8 5/16, or 5.6%, at 158; Flycast was up 3 7/8, or 7%, at 61 1/8; 24/7 Media was up 1 5/8, or 3%, at 52 1/2; and Engage was up 1/4, or 0.4%, at 59 11/16.

-- George Mannes

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

With the holiday season upon us, there will be any number of reports regarding online shopping in the coming weeks. A weekly report released today by

PC Data Online

and

Goldman Sachs

indicated that gift spending on the Internet rose 17% last week vs. the previous week, though overall Internet spending actually declined modestly.

The study reveals that Net shoppers spent $208 million last week, down $13 million from the previous week. The drop in overall spending was reflected in small dips in most of the top categories, though purchase of toys increased by 33% over the previous week. The top five categories in sales for the week were computer software, music, books, toys, and health and beauty products.

Also of interest, 77% of those who purchased during the past week reported that the experience exceeded their expectations. The satisfaction rating has steadily increased from 67% during the week ending Oct. 31. The report surveyed 3,019 home-based Internet users during the past week.

In a separate study, PC Data reported that more Internet users booked their Thanksgiving flights online this year than through travel agencies or the airlines. The study indicated that of the 2,079 home-based Internet users who were flying during the Thanksgiving holiday, 38% made their reservations online. Twenty-two percent booked directly with an airline and 16% through a travel agent. Fifty-five percent said they were confident or comfortable about making online travel arrangements.

Finally, the

Conference Board

released a survey today that showed nearly a quarter of all U.S. households bought something over the Internet during the past year, with the majority of single purchases averaging less than $100. Among the items of interest in the report were that consumers were rather conservative Internet spenders, with about one-third claiming their largest purchase totaled less than $50. The study was based on a representative sample of 5,000 households.

To become frequent buyers, the study indicated consumers want better prices. More than 60% claim that the price of goods plays heavily in their decision to make another online purchase. Improved security ranked as the second issue consumers tackle in their decision to buy or not to buy online. Nearly 55% feel this is an important issue. Third, but still a substantial stumbling block, is navigation. Nearly 40% of respondents would like greater ease in finding their products.