Big Tech Can't Be Stopped, and Isn't

The market continues to funnel wads of cash into the tech space, with market players seeing no end on the near horizon.
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And the green grass grows all around, all around, the green grass grows all around.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

America Online

(AOL)

announced stock splits.

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

and

Ford

(F) - Get Report

continued the consolidation of their respective industries. There were no major disasters either overseas or on the earnings front.

If stocks

didn't

rise today, there'd be something to worry about. Technology stocks, as is their wont, rambled further and faster than blue-chips or small-caps. But all major proxies were up on the session, while the

Nasdaq Composite Index

established its 10th record high of the new year.

The replete-with-tech Nasdaq Comp closed at its intraday high, up 70.20, or 2.9%, to 2477.34. The point gain is the fifth-highest in Nasdaq history. The close eclipses the previous high of 2433.41 set

Tuesday.

Intel was a major factor in the rise, gaining 3.3% on word of its amoeba impersonation, while tech bellwethers such as

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

also posted sharp gains. The

Nasdaq 100

rose 3.7% while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

climbed 3.2%.

Internet names, meanwhile, were inspired by the combo of AOL's stock split and better-than-expected earnings, plus Yahoo's bid to acquire

GeoCities

(GCTY)

. AOL rose 5.4%, Yahoo! gained 9.9%, and GeoCities climbed 57.4% on the respective developments.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index, of which GeoCities is not a component, rose as high as 552.50 before closing up 17.82, or 3.3%, to 552.41.

' Now the relative outperformance by big-cap tech is so far above anything in the market you don't know when it will end,' said Prime Charter's Scott Bleier. 'Anytime they dip, it's a one- or two-day affair and then it's back to the races.'

The fact Internet stocks didn't storm even higher on the news was not lost on market players. "Believe it or not, there seems to be a little more selectivity," one trader said. "Just a little bit more."

The evenly weighted DOT was restrained by weakness in components such as

BroadVision

(BVSN) - Get Report

and

MindSpring Enterprises

(MSPG)

; each reported earnings in line with

First Call

estimates

last night.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

drifted along in positive territory for much of the session, trading around the 9250 level. In the final hour of trading, however, the pace of gain accelerated and the index climbed as high as 9301.15 before closing up 81.10, or 0.9%, to 9281.33.

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

,

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

were the big positive influences on the index.

The

S&P 500

rose 22.20, or 1.8%, to 1265.37 while the

Russell 2000

gained 2.85, or 0.7%, to 423.97.

'Busy but Uneventful' on the NYSE Floor

From the floor of the

New York Stock Exchange

, the action seemed fairly intense today. But one independent broker kind enough to let a reporter tail him for a few hours described the scene as "busy, but pretty uneventful." The broker received a steady stream of orders from varied clients for varied stocks, but few trades of magnitude. Having notched gains in recent weeks, some clients may not want to "push things" with the trading month ending tomorrow, the player suggested.

In NYSE trading, 853 million shares traded while gainers led declining stocks 1,552 to 1,423. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity, advancers led 2,067 to 1,932 while 1.022 billion shares traded. New 52-week lows led new highs 80 to 64 on the Big Board but new highs led 111 to 28 in over-the-counter trading.

"It's the 'Lucky Seven' plus the Internet stocks. That's the show," said Scott Bleier, chief investment strategist at

Prime Charter

, naming Microsoft, Dell, AOL, Cisco, Intel,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

and

Lucent

(LU)

. "You have drugs, retailers, banks, transports and oil sloshing around -- industry groups doing absolutely nothing. But these major stocks are cap-weighted and they keep lifting indices higher and higher. Market internals have been miserable, lackluster at best, but that doesn't seem to matter."

Banks and drug makers were solid performers today, the former aided by a relatively calm day in Brazil, where the

Bovespa

rose 3.9% although the real dipped a further 2.1% to 1.95 to the dollar. Drug stocks were inspired by

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

, which rose 4.6% on news its board will vote on a 3-for-1 stock split on April 22. Still, both groups lagged the techs once again.

Barring an unforeseen external calamity, the most likely way for the trend to change is when big-cap tech stocks "go up really big for a couple of days on really no news," Bleier said. "That will be the blow-off top in those stocks that marks the ultimate valuation stretch. Obviously, we're not there yet."

Reading the Internet stocks, the strategist said

Federal Reserve

Chairman

Alan Greenspan

said nothing today regarding the group that could be construed as a warning to investors.

During the Q&A after testifying before the

Senate Budget Committee

, the chairman did liken investing in the Internet to playing the lottery. But he also said: "It does reflect something good about the way our securities markets work: mainly that they do endeavor to ferret out the better opportunities and put capital into various different type of endeavors prior to earnings actually materializing. ... With all of this hype and craziness, that is something that at the end of the day is probably more plus than minus."

The Internet comments are in sync with Greenspan's past "endorsement" of technology and, thereby, tech stocks, Bleier said. "Over and over again he's saying how technology is increasing productivity,

that tech is getting us where we are today," the strategist said. "Now the relative outperformance by big-cap tech is so far above anything in the market you don't know when it will end. Anytime they dip, it's a one- or two-day affair and then it's back to the races."

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

fell 10.77, or 0.4%, to 3078.33; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

fell 0.63, or 0.2%, to 303.19; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

rose 6.74, or 1%, to 713.93.

The price of the 30-year Treasury bond rose 10/32 to 102 6/32, sending its yield down to 5.11%.

Elsewhere in North American equities, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

edged up 16.74 to 6668.45 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

soared 177.56, or 4.7%, to 3992.91.

Thursday's Company Report

By Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

As noted above, GeoCities exploded 42 3/4, or 57.4%, to an all-time high of 117 1/4 after Yahoo! confirmed that it will buy the company in a stock deal valued at $3.56 billion. Yahoo, which grew 33 1/4, or 9.9%, to 367 3/4, will issue 0.34 of a share for each share of GeoCities. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. GeoCities also posted a fourth-quarter loss of 24 cents a share, 10 cents narrower than the three-analyst figure but wider than the year-ago loss of 14 cents. GeoCities' rival

theglobe.com

(TGLO)

soared 20 7/16, or 51.7%, to 59 15/16 on speculation it will be next.

Intel took in 4 7/16 to 137 3/16 after stepping into the conga line and agreeing to split its stock 2-for-1.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Ford revved up 2 3/16 to 62 1/2 after saying it will buy Sweden's

Volvo

(VOLVY)

in a cash-and-debt deal valued at $6.45 billion. The combination has been rumored for weeks. Volvo fell 9/16 to 26 9/16.

TRW

(TRW)

dropped 7/8 to 50 1/4 after confirming it will buy

LucasVarity

,

(LVA)

for $7 billion. LucasVarity added 1 1/4 to an all-time high of 47 15/16.

Federal-Mogul

(FMO) - Get Report

also had made a bid for LucasVarity, which was rebuffed.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Administaff

(ASF)

tanked 15 3/8, or 49.2%, to an all-time low of 15 7/8 after warning it will report fourth-quarter earnings below expectations and around 27 cents a share due to lower-than-expected revenue. The seven-analyst forecast called for 31 cents vs. the year-ago 25 cents.

America Online jumped 8 15/16, or 5.4%, to an all-time high of 174 7/16 after

last night reporting second-quarter earnings of 17 cents a share, 3 cents better than the 31-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 4 cents. The company also set a 2-for-1 stock split. AOL said it now has 15.1 million worldwide members, or 17 million including

CompuServe

customers.

Bonded Motors

(BMTR)

lost 3/4, or 16.2%, to an all-time low of 3 27/32 after last night saying it sees a fourth-quarter loss due to costs related to a canceled secondary offering, lower-than-expected unit shipments and more than $3 million worth of customer returns. The single-analyst estimate called for earnings of 2 cents a share vs. the year-ago 7 cents.

BroadVision gave up 4 1/2, or 9.9%, to 41 after last night missing fourth-quarter earnings of 8 cents a share, in line with forecasts.

Cinergy

(CIN)

rose 1/16 to 31 7/8 after reporting fourth-quarter net earnings of 45 cents a share, including a 20-cent charge and a 7-cent contribution. The nine-analyst forecast called for operating earnings of 66 cents vs. the year-ago 70 cents.

Crompton & Knowles

(CNK) - Get Report

advanced 3/4 to 17 1/2 after last night reporting fourth-quarter earnings a penny a share ahead of expectations.

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

grew 1 1/2 to an all-time high of 92 1/4 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 51 cents a share, in line with the 27-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 41 cents. The pharmaceutical giant also set a $1 billion stock-buyback plan.

Excel Switching

(XLSW)

shaved off 4 7/8, or 14.3%, to 29 1/4 after

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

slashed it to outperform from strong buy. Last night, the company beat fourth-quarter earnings by 1 cent a share.

Exodus Communications

(EXDS)

swelled 26 1/2, or 30.8%, to an all-time high of 113 1/2 after last night reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $1 a share, in line with the seven-analyst outlook and up from the year-ago loss of $5.91. The company set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Informix

(IFMX)

dropped 1 11/16, or 12.7%, to 11 11/16 despite last night topping fourth-quarter earnings by 3 cents a share.

Mapics

(MAPX)

lowered 1 9/16, or 13.1%, to an annual low of 10 3/8 even after last night reporting first-quarter earnings 1 cent a share above estimates.

New Era of Networks

(NEON) - Get Report

vaulted 8 7/8, or 16.3%, to an all-time high of 63 7/16 after last night beating fourth-quarter earnings estimates by 7 cents a share. Today,

Credit Suisse First Boston

raised the stock to strong buy from buy and upped its price target for the stock to 70 from 53.

Vantive

(VNTV)

sloughed off 1 1/8, or 7.8%, to 13 3/8 even after last night topping fourth-quarter estimates by a penny a share.

In other earnings news:

Analyst actions

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

shot up 3 1/16, or 5.5%, to 58 13/16 after

Salomon Smith Barney

upgraded it to buy from neutral.

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

tacked on 9/16 to 33 1/2 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upped it to strong buy from outperform and increased its price target to 42 a share.

HA-LO

(HMK)

plunged 13 3/16, or 37.2%, to 22 1/4 after Credit Suisse First Boston upped it to buy from strong buy.

Officemax

(OMX)

tumbled 13/16, or 7.9%, to 9 1/2 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter cut the stock to neutral from outperform.

Tupperware

(TUP) - Get Report

climbed 1 1/16, or 5.6%, to 20 1/8 after

Raymond James

raised it to accumulate from neutral.

Miscellany

Adams Golf

(ADGO)

excelled 1 7/32, or 29.8%, to 5 5/16 after its chief executive introduced the company's new SC Series Titanium Driver on

CNBC

cable TV.

Swedish telecom company

Ericsson

(ERICY)

surged 1 3/4, or 7%, to 26 15/16 after the ahead-of-schedule presentation of its new mobile phone model, T28. The company also posted full-year results.

Vantive

(VNTV)

skidded 1 1/8, or 7.8%, to 13 3/8 on word its accounting practices are being investigated by the

Securities and Exchange Commission

.