Tech investors went to the table today with earnings on the brain, and they weren't in the frame of mind to listen to soothing reassurances from anyone.

One exception was communications giant

Nortel

( NT). After

announcing this morning that it was comfortable with forecasts for this year and next, the company closed higher. Stock of the world's largest fiber-optic network maker has dropped 42.3% in value since it warned about slowing demand in late October. After reassuring investors today, the company's stock closed up $2.94, or 6.4%, to $38.75.

But fiber-optic cable maker

Corning

(GLW) - Get Report

, which this morning reassured investors its earnings would meet top-line estimates for the quarter and for next year, dropped anyway. After starting out positive, Corning turned south, closing down $2.44, or 3.4%, to $70.

Analysts had predicted that

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

would meet or beat its financial projections. After rising in the morning, Oracle fell before it announced that it had beaten estimates by a penny a share. Oracle shares had been up 7.3% for the month, but the software giant slipped in the afternoon, closing down 88 cents, or 3.1%, to $27.50.

Much-battered Internet incubator

CMGI

( CMGI) dropped during the day, before announcing that it had beaten earnings estimates for the quarter. Before the announcement, though, CMGI dropped 56 cents, or 5.8%, to $9.06.

After enduring the water torture of ongoing earnings warnings for the past several weeks, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

struggled into the green Thursday, closing up 0.8%.

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

, badly beaten in the past few days over growth concerns, slipped again today. A research report from

Sanford Bernstein

indicated there may be a problem with the rollout of the company's UltraSparc III servers. Sun closed down 6 cents, or 0.2%, to $31.69.

Another warning that came from flat-panel display manufacturer

Silicon Image

(SIMG)

resulted in three downgrades and the loss of a third of the share's value.

Yesterday, Silicon Image announced that its fourth-quarter revenue would be down 8% to 10% from last quarter. Its earlier estimates had been that revenue would grow 10% to 12%. The reason: slow demand for its displays from PC makers and others.

Prudential Securities

, and

C.E. Unterberg Towbin

downgraded the stock, which closed down $2.88, or 33.3%, to $5.75.

The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

skidded again today, dropping 1%. Communications chipmaker

Broadcom

(BRCM)

fell prey to profit taking. Broadcom, which rose 19.2% in the past week, dropped 15% today.

3:13 p.m. ET: AOL, Time-Warner Rise on Merger OK

With the gracious speeches made and the last chad left dangling, tech stocks were able to concentrate on the important stuff that drives the market these days -- worries about earnings, a slowing economy and, in focus today, mergers.

"I think the presidential rally came and went and no one knew it, " said Peter Coolidge, managing director of trading at

Brean, Murray Foster Securities

. The overall sentiment is weakness and frustration and that we're in for tougher times."

Related Story

AOL, Time Warner and the Road Ahead

The

Federal Trade Commission

this morning approved the long-awaited merger of Internet giant

America Online

(AOL)

and media powerhouse

Time Warner

(TWX)

. The deal was

approved unanimously after the two companies agreed to last-minute concessions that give Internet service providers more access to the Time-Warner cable network. AOL was up $1.05 or 2.8%, to $49.50. Time Warner was up $1.15, or 1.6%, to $73.75.

But

Intermedia

(ICIX)

investors weren't reacting well to a Delaware judge's ruling that cleared objections to the merger between

WorldCom

( WCOM) and Intermedia, a voice and data company. Late Wednesday, a judge declined to block WorldCom's merger with Intermedia as requested by minority shareholders of

Digex

(DIGX)

, which is controlled by Intermedia.

Shares of Intermedia were being slammed, recently down $4.91, or 40%, to $7.34.

Those looking for a positive push were hoping they'd find some strength in

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

, which will release its latest earnings report today after the closing bell. In a research note today

Lehman Brothers

analyst Neil Herman wrote that he expected a solid showing from the software giant and wouldn't be surprised if it beat Street estimates of 10 cents a share by a penny.

Investors shared this mild optimism. In recent trading, Oracle was trading up 63 cents, or 2.2%, to $29.

They also liked

Corning's

(GLW) - Get Report

reassurances this morning that it would make the higher end of estimates for the quarter and for the year. The fiber-optic cable maker was trading up $1.44, or 2%, to $71.

Coolidge noted that semiconductor companies were trading more strongly than much of the market, probably due to money rotating around the sectors. The chip sector, after all, has been on a roller coaster. Today, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

, which tracks the sector, was trading up 2.1%. It dropped 12.3% during the first three sessions this week.

Despite a downgrade from influential analyst

Dan Niles of Lehman,

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

was trading up $1.25, or 3.6%, to $35.63. Micron, trading far off its 52-week high of 97.50, has fallen on worries about demand for computers and weak prices for DRAM chips. It has lost 15.9% in the last three weeks.

Niles also reduced financial estimates for German chipmaker

Infineon Technologies

( IFX) based on weakness in the DRAM market. Infineon was trading down $2, or 4.5%, to $42.56.

Semiconductor equipment makers, still smarting from multiple downgrades yesterday, were a seasonal red and green. Industry leader

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

was trading down 0.15%, while

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

was up 2.1% and

Novellus

(NVLS)

was rising 3.1%.

Software, though, was taking some lumps.

Adobe Systems

(ADBE) - Get Report

was trading down after

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

reduced its rating on the software maker to neutral from outperform. That's before Adobe announces earnings after the close today. Analyst Rebecca Runkle wrote that the downgrade was based on the slowing economy and Adobe's high valuation.

Adobe was trading down $8.78, or 13.3%, to $57.41.

Short-term concerns led to a downgrade of e-commerce software producer

BroadVision

(BVSN) - Get Report

.

ABN-AMRO

analyst Jackson Spears lowered the rating from add to buy, noting that there is increasing price pressure in some deals that might threaten margins in coming quarters.

BroadVision was trading down 56 cents, or 2.6%, to $21.50.