Mixed Open in the Cards for Stocks

Cued by the bonds and consolidation in overseas markets, the S&P 500 futures have fallen off their early highs.
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Some late softness in the futures market has taken some of the shine off the early outlook for stocks.

At 9:05 a.m. EST, the

S&P 500

futures were down 3 to 1412.80. Since the futures closed about 4.5 points under fair value yesterday, that indicates a mixed-to-higher opening.

If, like virtually no one else watching Wall Street, you're looking at stocks outside the technology sector, you've been seeing the market struggle lately. The S&P 500, a relatively broad measure of large-cap stocks, has been encountering significant resistance since it punctured the 1400 level more than two weeks ago. Yesterday's 1% drop was its second straight session of consolidation this week.

But it's hard to focus on that with the

Nasdaq Composite Index

up 31.3% since Oct. 15 and 63.6% on the year. Tech's outperformance has been so exceptional that it's starting to reject even the most ebullient superlatives.

"I think the Dow's got a little more profit-taking to do," said Jim Benning, trader at

BT Brokerage

. "The Nasdaq ought to be doing some profit-taking, but they're setting new records every day over there."

Part of the late selling in stock futures had to do with the bond market, which was drifting lower. The 30-year Treasury was down 13/32 to 98 18/32, putting its yield at 6.231%. No major economic data are due out today, though the

Federal Reserve

will release its Beige Book report on the country's economic conditions at 2 p.m.

Oil prices were tumbling after the weekly

American Petroleum Institute

report showed an unexpected 8.7 million-barrel jump in stocks of gasoline. Crude oil for January delivery was lately down 57 cents to $25.65 a barrel.

Across the pond, the large European bourses were all deep in the tank in early afternoon trading. London's

FTSE

was down 42.0, or 0.6%, to 6618.9, while the Paris

CAC

was off 42.61, or 0.8%, to 5491.90. Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

was 87.75 lower, or 1.4%, to 6071.02.

The euro continues to hold onto Monday's gains, hanging close to the $1.0252 level through overnight trading, and lately sitting at $1.0241.

In Tokyo, the

Nikkei

sank 192.76, or 1%, to 18,401.2

The yen traded in another narrow range against the dollar overnight. Dollar/yen firmed from 102.5 to as high as 102.92. It continued that advance this morning, and was lately quoted at 103.01. Tokyo's currency market has been relatively quiet this week ahead of the

tankan

, the quarterly survey of business sentiment the

Bank of Japan

will release on Monday.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

consolidated for the second consecutive session, falling 83.71, or 0.5%, to 15,989.38.

Wednesday's Wake-Up Watchlist

By

Eileen Kinsella

and

Brian Louis

Staff Reporters

Ericsson

(ERICY)

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

announced a strategic pact "to develop and market end-to-end solutions for the wireless Internet." The companies will form a joint company -- of which Ericsson will own a majority stake -- to market and deliver mobile email solutions for network operators.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

and

Sprint PCS Group

(PCS)

said they are offering online shopping at Amazon from Internet-ready Sprint PCS phones.

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

and

State Street

(STT) - Get Report

agreed to form a joint venture called

CitiStreet

, which they said will provide services for in part defined-contribution, pension and health and welfare plans.

Siemens

said it planned to sell its entire cable and fiber-optic business to

Corning

(GLW) - Get Report

for about $1.4 billion. Siemens said it would transfer business activities, including 3,300 employees, to Corning on Feb. 2, 2000.

Ravisent Technologies

(RVST)

set a pact with

MindSpring Enterprises

(MSPG)

, an Internet service provider, to deliver an Internet appliance that will allow consumers to access the Internet without a computer. Customers using the Ravisent product will use their TV screens to surf the Net, read and send email, among other things. Under the terms of the deal, Ravisent will offer its Internet TV appliance at a "subsidized, competitive price" to those who subscribe to two years of MindSpring's service.

Telescan

(TSCN)

said it entered into a three-year agreement with

America Online

(AOL)

in which Telescan will add its stock-screening and portfolio analysis tools to AOL's Personal Finance channel.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(Earnings estimates are from

First Call/Thomson Financial

.)

Korn/Ferry International

(KFY) - Get Report

reported second-quarter earnings of 17 cents a share, beating the four-analyst estimate of 15 cents and the year-ago loss of 1 cent.

Warburg Dillon Read

initiated coverage of Korn/Ferry with a buy rating and set a price target of 31.

New York Times

(NYT) - Get Report

said it was comfortable with current consensus earnings estimates. The 12-analyst estimate for 1999 calls for earnings of $1.72 a share.

Analyst actions

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

cut its rating on

AK Steel Holding

(AKS) - Get Report

to buy from strong buy.

Warburg started coverage of

CVC

(CVCI)

with a buy rating and set a price target of 16.

Merrill Lynch's

Henry Blodget initiated coverage of

Exodus Communications

(EXDS)

with an intermediate-term buy rating and put a 200 price objective on the stock. There's also a long-term buy rating on Exodus shares, which closed yesterday at 144 1/2.

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown cut its rating on

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

to market perform from buy.

Warburg initiated coverage of

Temple-Inland

(TIN)

with a buy rating and set a price target of 75 on the stock.

Offerings and stock actions

Andover.Net's

(ANDN)

4 million-share IPO was priced top-range at $18 a share.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

said its board approved a $2 billion increase in its share-buyback plan.

Goldman Sachs

priced 7.25 million shares of

Classic Communications

(CLSC)

at $25 a share, the top of the estimated $23-to-$25 range. The company is an Austin, Texas-based cable operator focused on nonmetropolitan U.S. markets.

C-COR.net's

(CCBL)

board approved a 2-for-1 stock split.

Pegasus Systems'

(PEGS)

board approved a 3-for-2 stock split.

Miscellany

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

said that it has tapped COO Kevin Sharer to replace the retiring Gordon Binder as CEO in May. Binder also plans to leave his role as the company's chairman.

AstraZeneca

(AZN) - Get Report

is expected to release results today of an experimental cholesterol-lowering agent that it believes will be more potent than

Warner-Lambert's

(WLA)

Lipitor,

The Wall Street Journal

reported.

The

Pentagon

said that

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

has won a $1.98 billion U.S. defense contract to contribute to a jet-engine improvement program for certain

Air Force

planes through 2014. The program, which will be launched in January, will include power plants for F-16 fighters and A-10 attack jets, B-1 and B-2 bombers, KC-135 refueling tankers, C-5 cargo planes and T-38 trainers.

The Heard on the Street column in the

Journal

takes a look at

Charles Schwab's

(SCH)

efforts to maintain its large online brokerage market share in the face of increasing competition from cheaper dot-coms as well as more traditional rivals such as

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

.