Stocks drifted lower in the first hour of trading this morning, largely fulfilling pre-opening expectations. But declines have been of limited magnitude for blue-chip proxies, leading traders to presume recent records were not of the mirage variety. Moreover, the

Nasdaq Composite Index

has overcome some early weakness to push into positive turf.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was lately down 12 to 9716, up from its initial decline to as low as 9680.99. The

S&P 500

, once as low as 1274.76, was lately up fractionally at 1283 after

yesterday's record close.

The big story among blue-chips is the announcement

RJR Nabisco


will sell its tobacco business to

Japan Tobacco

for $8 billion. RJR, long under pressure to separate its food and tobacco units, was lately up 6%.

In broader market averages, the Nasdaq Comp was up 15 to 2412 while the

Russell 2000

was higher by 1 to 401.

The Nasdaq Comp was taking the high ground, thanks largely to


(MSFT) - Get Report

, lately up 2%. The software giant is considering a settlement with the

Department of Justice

in its antitrust trial,

The Seattle Times


The story was overshadowing a rare brokerage downgrade of Microsoft --

Cowen & Co.

lowered its recommendation on Mr. Softee to buy from strong buy and did the same to


(DELL) - Get Report

. Dell was lately off a fraction.

The potential for a Microsoft-DOJ detente was helping take some of the sting out of

last night's profit warning from

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

, lately down 9%. The impact was also muted, perhaps, because AMD has repeatedly warned of profit shortfalls in recent years. (

delved further into the latest AMD disappointment in a

story this morning.)

Internet stocks, meanwhile, were on the rise behind strength in



, lately up 18%. David Wetherell, chief executive of



, resigned from Lycos' board of directors to protest terms of the merger agreement announced last month with

USA Networks

(USAI) - Get Report

. Wetherell has hired

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

to canvas other shareholders and help him press for better merger terms,


reported. CMGI, which owns 18.5% of Lycos, was lately up 9% at 216 7/8 after trading as low as 185 1/8 in early trading. Internet Sector Index

, of which Lycos and CMGI are components, was lately up 12 to 584. E-Commerce Index

was higher by 2 to 105.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

was up 8 to 3297; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

was down 2 to 298; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

was off 1 to 711.

The price of the 30-year Treasury bond was lately up 5/32 to 95 7/32.

9:59 a.m.: Stocks Falter at Open

Stocks and Treasuries slipped slightly in the early going.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down 41 to 9587. The

S&P 500

was down 6 to 1277. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was down 1 to 2397. The

Russell 2000

was down 1 to 399. Internet Sector

was down 4 to 567. E-Commerce Index

was down 2 to 101.

The 30-year Treasury bond was down 9/32 to 94 25/32, yielding 5.61%.

Most Up at Open -- NYSE

Sony (SNE) - Get Report, up 2 11/16 to 88 1/2

: Sony announced a major restructuring, including job cuts totaling 17,000 over four years. The company will also slice the number of its manufacturing facilities worldwide to 55 from 70.

Most Up at Open -- Nasdaq

Lycos (LCOS) , up 9 3/4 to 93 5/8




Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David S. Wetherell has resigned from Lycos' board of directors. CMGI is the largest Lycos shareholder. Lycos has agreed -- subject to shareholder approval -- to merge with parts of

USA Networks

(USAI) - Get Report

. The newly formed entity is to be called

USA/Lycos Interactive Networks

. Wetherell said in a news release that "it is my opinion that the terms of the USA/Lycos transaction are inadequate for Lycos shareholders. As such, I am resigning from the Lycos board in order to be free to explore the best options available to Lycos shareholders, including the possibility of Lycos remaining independent."

For its part, Lycos said this morning it "remains fully committed to the USA/Lycos Interactive Networks transaction."

Most Down at Open -- NYSE

Electronic Data Systems (EDS) , down 1 5/8 to 46 7/8


Most Down at Open -- Nasdaq

CMGI (CMGI) , down 13 11/16 to 186



Brian Louis