Updated from 10:25 a.m.

Beware of falling prices? Try beware of falling estimates!

Robertson Stephens

snipped

Wal-Mart's

(WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report

2000 and 2001 earnings estimates after the major retailer said that fourth-quarter

same-store sales would come in below estimates. The company originally wanted sales to rise between 3% and 5%, but cold temperatures and slow sales hit results.

Wal-Mart might miss estimates, saying that earnings will beat last year's 43 cents a share. Unfortunately, the analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

are looking for 46 cents a share. And when you miss estimates, or preannounce, the analysts don't like you.

Today, in reaction, Robertson Stephens cut Wal-Mart's fiscal 2000 earnings per share estimate to 1.40 from $1.42, and 2001 to $1.60 from $1.68.

But not every analyst shop was in agreement.

Prudential Securities

raised Wal-Mart's 2000 estimate to $1.41 a share from $1.40 and 2001 to $1.62 from $1.61, saying that it had already factored a bad holiday season into estimates. Wal-Mart closed down $2.25, or 4%, to $53.94.

Meanwhile,

3M's

(MMM) - Get 3M Company Report

recent rise in value in the wake of the hiring of new chief executive and former

General Electric

executive Jim McNerney has given it little room to go any higher. Since his hiring in December, 3M has jumped about 20%. And the folks at

Lehman Brothers

don't really think the company can go any higher -- not judging from its earnings picture, anyway.

Lehman cut 3M's 2001 earnings estimates to $4.80 a share from $5.20, telling investors that it thinks the company is fully valued and that a slowdown in technology spending will affect the bottom line. And that estimate just isn't low, it's 45 cents lower than the average Wall Street estimate -- $5.25 a share.

Supporting the move, Lehman said that 3M's electronics and communications segment, which accounted for 17% of its sales in 2000, would see lower demand for its products as a result of slower spending in technology. So will 3M's optical system branch, which makes things for liquid crystal display screens. 3M closed down $4.44, or 3.7%, to $114.56.

Lehman didn't stop with 3M, however. The brokerage also trimmed

Alcoa's

(AA) - Get Alcoa Corp. Report

fiscal estimates, cutting its 2000 earnings per share estimate to $1.78 from $1.82, and its 2001 estimate to $2.25 from $2.35. This puts Lehman more in line with the rest of its friends on Wall Street. The analysts' average estimate for 2000 was $1.79 a share, while 2001 is $2.22 a share. Alcoa ended the day down 63 cents, or 1.9%, to $33.13.

Elsewhere on the blue-chip front,

UBS Warburg

took down

Hewlett-Packard's

(HWP)

first-quarter earnings estimate to 41 cents a share from 45 cents, and its full-year 2001 to $1.91 a share from $1.95. The consensus first-quarter estimate, according to First Call, was 43 cents a share, while the full-year was $1.93. H-P closed down $4, or 11.6%, to $30.63.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Weyerhaeuser

(WY) - Get Weyerhaeuser Company Report

won't take no for an answer. The timber company said today that it would be extending its bid for rival

Willamette

(WLL) - Get Whiting Petroleum Corporation Report

until Feb. 1, because it feels that Willamette's shareholders want "to negotiate a mutually beneficial transaction with Weyerhaeuser."

Those words came from Steven Rogel, Weyerhaeuser's chairman, in a statement explaining the action. He continued, "We hope the Willamette board will listen to what its shareholders are saying -- this transaction is too compelling to ignore."

This is just the latest in a series of mind games between the two companies. Earlier, Weyerhaeuser tendered an unsolicited $48 a share bid for its rival, who made it quite clear that it was not interested. When the direct approach failed, Weyerhaeuser soon made news of its bid public to the company's shareholders in order to put more pressure on its rival's board to accept the bid. The move, called a "bear hug," didn't produce the desired results and since then, Weyerhaeuser has begun openly courting Willamette's shareholders.

Weyerhaeuser closed down 19 cents, or 0.4%, to $52.75; Willamette was up 19 cents, or 0.4%, to $46.94.

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Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Bausch & Lomb

(BOL)

warned this morning that it expects fourth-quarter earnings and revenue to be "modestly lower" than previously estimated due to weaker-than-expected sales in the company's U.S. refractive-surgery business.

The company also plans to lay off 800 workers in a restructuring,

Reuters

reported.

The Rochester, N.Y., eye health care company said it expects earnings of 69 cents to 71 cents a share, excluding accounting charges and events, compared with 88 cents in the same period last year. According to

First Call/Thomson Financial

, 15 analysts expected the company to earn 73 cents in the fourth quarter.

Bausch, which said it has experienced a slowdown in purchases of capital equipment for refractive surgery, projected fourth-quarter revenue of about $460 million, compared with $466.6 million a year ago. Analysts on average called for fourth-quarter revenue of $473.9 million. The company also said it has increased its bad debt reserves in the fourth quarter due to the uncertainty of collecting receivables from a customer. Bausch & Lomb ended the day down $1.25, or 3.2%, to $37.75.

Borders

(BGP)

, the bookseller, said that it will miss fourth-quarter analyst estimates due to low margin sales items and a poor holiday shopping season. The company was expected to earn $1.37 a share, but that's not really going to happen. Borders said it will come in 10% below estimates, which, if you do the math, puts its fourth quarter at close to $1.23 a share. Same-store sales grew just 1%, missing the expected 3% year-over-year growth. Borders closed down 94 cents, or 7.3%, to $12.

Circuit City

(CC) - Get Chemours Co. Report

said comparable store-sales grew by 1%, while overall store sales grew by 2% in the month of December. And if you exclude appliances, which Circuit City stopped selling in the third quarter, comparable store sales grew 7%.

Chief Executive W. Alan McCollough said the big vacant spot where all the refrigerators were has been filled with DVD players, digital cameras and other high-tech goodies. And those items sold quite well.

"The new and expanded selections of video game hardware and software, personal computer software, peripherals, accessories and digital imaging more than offset the sales lost by our exit from the appliance business," said the CEO in a prepared statement.

Circuit City also said it was pleased with recent efforts to remodel its stores, citing an easier shopping experience. But it said a full-out Bob Vila-on-ephedrine style remodeling would not be necessary in most cases. The company said it will be testing partial remodels, ones that cost less and can be completed in 60 days, four months less than a full remodel would take. Circuit City closed up $2.06, or 14.7%, to $16.06.

Guidant

(GDT)

makes medical devices like pacemakers. Hopefully, it's got some sort of resuscitation device lying around, because the company said it would miss fourth-quarter estimates. The company said that earnings will now likely come in near 40 cents, lower than the 43 cent First Call/Thomson Financial estimate. The company did say it would meet 2001 estimates. Guidant closed down $3.63, or 7.1%, to $47.69.

Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Nordstrom, Inc. (JWN) Report

said December same-store sales fell 2.7% from a year ago, a miss that will impact its earnings per share figure. Now the retailer said fourth-quarter earnings will come in between 18 cents and 23 cents a share, far worse that the 38 cents a share expected by First Call/Thomson Financial. The reasons behind the miss were quite clear -- the same two things that many have been warning about for most of the holiday season -- slower sales and too much inventory, resulting in lower profit margins. Nordstrom closed down $1.50, or 7.4%, to $18.88.

After Thursday's Close

Judging from the name,

Brinker International

(EAT) - Get Brinker International, Inc. Report

could be anything -- a bank, a manufacturer, a local dot-com trying to pretend it's a real company by adding "international" to its name and dropping all Internet references. But judging from its ticker symbol, EAT, it becomes clear that this company, which owns

Chili's

and

Macaroni Grill

, is involved in food.

Today, Brinker announced that December same-store sales rose 3.8%. That is, sales at stores that have been open a year or longer grew by that amount. Chili's was the clear reason behind the increase, with its same-store sales increasing 5.3% from the year-ago December. That said, these increases are also due to a 2%-plus price increase at both Chili's and Macaroni Grill. Brinker closed down $1.63, or 4.5%, to $34.88.

We wish you a Merry Christmas! We wish you a Merry -- Hey! It's not Christmas anymore. Get out.

eToys

(ETYS)

loaded up on the coal instead of profits this holiday season and just announced a massive reduction in staff. The online toy seller cut 700 of its 1,000 jobs after sales did not improve this season, forcing the company to say it will not be profitable by 2003 and quarterly earnings (or rather, "losses") will not improve.

Along with the restructuring, eToys said it would be exploring strategic options.

And

Toys R Us

(TOY)

just makes matters worse. That toy retailer rose $4.13 to $22.63 today after announcing that online sales had tripled from the year-ago period. Geoffrey the giraffe's employer also announced that same-store sales had increased 3.5%, making Toys R Us a high-profile winner in the wake of a dreadful holiday season. The company hit a 52-week high, while eToys slid 16.7% to 16 cents a share, putting it in danger of getting delisted soon.

Death by comparison would be bad enough, but eToys hasn't been able to perform up to expectations during its short and troubled history, most recently announcing in December that its holiday season would come in soft. Tonight's announcement is just the end result of an unfortunate and disappointing retail season. eToys closed flat at 16 cents; Toys R Us was up 81 cents, or 3.6%, to $23.44.

Keynote Systems

(KEYN)

provides services to online businesses. Anyone want to guess if the news from the company was good or bad? It was bad. The company lowered first-quarter revenue projections and said that first-quarter earnings would come in around the 11 cent per share estimate. The only problem -- Keystone will miss the full-year estimate.

Going forward, 2001 will not be as good as expected for the company, which lowered its year-long earnings per share estimate to between 44 cents and 46 cents, lower than the 54 cent estimate. The company blamed lower revenue growth on declines in Internet service provider spending. Keynote Systems closed down $3.06, or 18.1%, to $13.88.

Next Level Communications

(NXTV)

did some talking. How good the words seem depends on how close you listen. On one hand, the broadband-systems provider said fiscal 2000 revenue would come in around $150 million, a major increase over last year's $57.6 million. On the other, the company still expects to announce a loss of 22 cents a share, which is a dime worse than the 12-cent loss expected by First Call/Thomson Financial.

So, although the revenue situation is better than last year, that ain't really saying too much.

The company still lacks profitability and said that 2001 wouldn't be that great, either. From a comment buried in the last line of the press release: "Next Level believes revenues for 2001 will be lower than previously estimated. The company will revise guidance for fiscal 2001 during its Jan. 24 fourth-quarter earnings conference call." The stock closed down 6 cents, or 0.6%, to $10.75.

Charge!

Rayonier

(RYN) - Get Rayonier Inc. Report

announced it will be taking a pair of one-time, nonrecurring items in its fourth quarter. One is a 16 cent per-share gain related to the sale of a New Zealand joint venture in timberland. The other is a 34 cent charge related to an increase in dispositions reserve, or the costs associated with maintaining other land holdings. Rayonier closed down $1, or 2.5%, to $39.63.

Floors are supposed to be flat. Revenue growth is not.

Semtech

(SMTC) - Get Semtech Corporation Report

announced that its fourth-quarter revenue would be flat when compared to its third quarter, due to shifting inventory levels. The company said it will meet the 23 cent analyst estimates, but revenue growth won't really improve until the second quarter. That's a pretty big floor. Semtech closed up $1.25, or 5.6%, to $23.44.

This just in -- people are still drinking coffee. Street-corner staple

Starbucks

(SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report

announced that December same-store sales rose 8% from the previous year. Revenue increased $281 million, or 24% from the previous year as well. That's a whole lot of coffee. The company called this its best holiday season since 1994. Starbucks closed up 63 cents, or 1.5%, to $41.75.

The Washington Post

(WPO)

TheStreet Recommends

announced that it would be taking a $16.5 million charge in its fourth quarter due to the effects of an early retirement program. That's $1.74 a share, which at other companies would be an eye-popping sum. But at the Post, which has fewer than 10 million shares out in the market, it's not such a huge impact, because the number of shares is so low.

The company expects to save $4 million a year from the early retirement initiative. The Post closed up 63 cents, or 1.5%, to $41.75.

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Analyst actions

Upgrades

American Standard

(ASD)

: UP to market outperform from market perform at

Goldman Sachs

. American Standard closed up $1.69, or 3.3%, to $52.94.

Black & Decker

undefined

: UP to accumulate from neutral at

Merrill Lynch

. Black & Decker closed up $2.56, or 3.4%, or $78.94.

Fannie Mae

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: UP to strong buy from buy at

UBS Warburg

. Fannie Mae ended up $2.56, or 3.4%, to $78.94.

First Data

(FDC) - Get First Data Corporation Class A Report

: UP to buy from accumulate at Merrill, price target: $71. First Data closed up $2, or 3.9%, to $53.19.

Health Management Associates

(HMA)

: UP to buy from hold at UBS Warburg. Health Management closed up 31 cents, or 1.8%, to $17.81.

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report

: UP to strong buy from buy at USB Warburg. Pfizer ended the day up 56 cents, or 1.4%, to $42.38.

Sherwin-Williams

(SHW) - Get Sherwin-Williams Company Report

: UP to accumulate from neutral at Merrill. Sherwin-Williams closed down 50 cents, or 1.9%, to $26.44.

Toys R Us

(TOY)

: UP to recommended for purchase from market perform at Goldman Sachs. The stock closed up 81 cents, or 3.6%, to $23.44.

W.W. Grainger

(GWW) - Get W.W. Grainger, Inc. Report

: UP to market perform from market underperform at Goldman Sachs. Grainger closed down 38 cents, or 0.99%, to $37.63.

Downgrades

ClickSoftware

(CKSW)

: DOWN to neutral from buy at

SG Cowen

. ClickSoftware closed down 94 cents, or 45.5%, to $1.13.

Eaton

(ETN) - Get Eaton Corp. Plc Report

: DOWN to market perform from market outperform at Goldman Sachs. Eaton ended the day up 25 cents, or 0.4%, to $70.

eBenX

(EBNX)

: DOWN to buy from strong buy at

W.R. Hambrecht

. eBenX closed down $1.19, or 16.4%, to $6.06.

Intimate Brands

(IBI)

: DOWN to hold from buy at

Credit Suisse First Boston

. Intimate Brands closed down 50 cents, or 3.4%, to $14.38.

Keynote

(KEYN)

: DOWN to attractive from buy at Robertson Stephens. Keynote closed down $3.06, or 18.1%, to $13.88.

Limited

(LTD)

: DOWN to hold from buy at CSFB. The stock closed down 31 cents, or 1.96%, to $15.63.

Next Level Communications

(NXTV)

: DOWN to neutral from strong buy at W.R. Hambrecht. As noted above, Next Level closed down 6 cents, or 0.6%, to $10.75.

Photon Dynamics

(PHTN)

: DOWN to accumulate from buy at Merrill Lynch. Photon closed down $3.69, or 17.8%, to $17.06.

Sapient

(SAPE)

: DOWN to buy from strong buy at W.R. Hambrecht. Sapient closed down $1.31, or 3.1%, to $40.63.

Southtrust

(SOTR)

: DOWN to hold from buy at UBS Warburg. Southtrust closed down $1.31, or 3.1%, to $40.63.

Initiations

Best Buy

(BBY) - Get Best Buy Co., Inc. Report

: NEW strong buy at CSFB; price target: $60. Best Buy closed up $1.50, or 3.9%, to $39.94.

Biomet

(BMET)

: NEW buy at CSFB; price target: $41. Biomet closed down $2.13, or 5.98%, to $33.44.

Eastgroup Properties

(EGP) - Get EastGroup Properties, Inc. Report

: NEW buy at UBS Warburg; price target: $24.50. Eastgroup closed down 6 cents, or 0.3%, to $23.50.

Nucor

(NUE) - Get Nucor Corporation Report

: NEW neutral at

Lehman Brothers

. Nucor closed down 6 cents, or 0.2%, to $39.75.

RadioShack

(RSH)

: NEW buy at CSFB; price target: $65. RadioShack closed down $2.75, or 5.5%, to $47.75.

Unilever

(UN) - Get Unilever NV ADR Report

: NEW neutral at Merrill Lynch. Unilever closed up 81 cents, or 1.4%, to $58.50.

USX-U.S. Steel

(X) - Get United States Steel Corporation Report

: NEW neutral at Lehman Brothers. The stock closed down 63 cents, or 3.5%, to $17.13.

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Offerings and stock actions

Northway Financial

(NWFI)

will be buying back up to 10% of its outstanding shares in a stock buyback program designed to inflate share value. That's about 156,000 shares. Northway closed up $1.13, or 4.9%, to $24.

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Miscellany

Avon Products

(AVP) - Get Avon Products, Inc. Report

, best known for its merchandise hawking Avon Ladies, will have an Avon Guy at the top, naming Steve Bock to the position of president of retail. Avon closed up 31 cents, or 0.7%, to $44.50.

BMC Software

(BMCS)

, which has skyrocketed in the last two trading sessions after beating analyst estimates, announced that there'll be a new sheriff in town. Robert Beauchamp will be the Houston-based company's new chief executive and president, replacing Max Watson, who keeps his chairman's seat for the next four months. BMC closed down 50 cents, or 2.2%, to $21.81.

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By the Numbers

The data on NYSE and Nasdaq percent winners and losers are filtered to exclude stocks whose previous day's volume was less than 25,000 shares; whose last price was less than 5; and whose net change was less than 1/2.

Dow point gain and loss data are based on New York closing prices and do not reflect late composite trading.

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