Stocks were higher this afternoon as financial services titan

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

led the blue-chip

Dow Jones Industrial Average

to its modest intraday high.

The Dow was up 41 to 9920, just off its session high of 9925.47.

American Express was up 4 1/8 to 125 1/16.

Banking and brokerage stocks overall were soaring today in part on merger speculation. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was up 2%, while the

American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

was up 3%.

Elsewhere, the

S&P 500

was up 12 to 1309. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 18 to 2447. The

Russell 2000

was up 1 to 399.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 8 to 617. Meanwhile,

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

was up 6 to 116.

The 30-year Treasury bond was up 15/32 to 96 23/32, yielding 5.48%. Bond-friendly economic data helped lift the long bond. Topping economic news today, the

Labor Department

said the overall

Consumer Price Index

rose 0.1% in February while the core CPI -- excluding food and energy costs -- also edged up 0.1%.

A rise in crude oil prices buoyed oil and oil service stocks. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

was up 2%, as was the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

.

On the

New York Stock Exchange

, advancers were beating decliners 1,468 to 1,385 on 518 million shares. On the

Nasdaq Stock Market

, losers were beating winners 1,963 to 1,702 on 574 million shares.

On the NYSE, 49 issues had set new 52-week lows while 33 had touched new highs. On the Nasdaq, 76 issues had set new lows while new highs totaled 57.

Most active on the Big Board was

America Online

(AOL)

, with 22 million shares changing hands. It was up 9 1/2, or 9%, to 118 1/2.

On the Nasdaq,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

was most active, with 16 million shares changing hands. It was down 7/8 to 42 1/16.

Sector Focus: Transportation

Transportation issues rose, led by

FDX

(FDX) - Get Report

, which soared after it released its fiscal third-quarter earnings report. FDX, parent of

Federal Express

, soared 6 3/4, or 7%, to 99 11/16, after posting earnings of 52 cents a share, including costs from contingency plans related to the FedEx pilot negotiations and merger expenses related to its buyout of

Caliber

. The figure surpassed the

First Call

12-analyst forecast of 41 cents but below the year-ago 65 cents. FDX also set a 2-for-1 stock split. FDX hit a 52-week intraday high today of 99 13/16.

The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

was up 3%.

Since its Oct. 8 nadir, the transportation average has soared approximately 46%.

1:07 p.m.: Midday Musings Barrier at 10,000 Makes Stock Picking Look Good

11:58 a.m.: Stocks Remain Moderately Higher

The major market gauges were slightly higher late this morning as stocks in the Internet, financial, transportation and energy sectors were posting solid advances.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 17 to 9896. The

S&P 500

was up 6 to 1303. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 9 to 2438.

The small-cap

Russell 2000

was up 1 to 399.

The 30-year Treasury bond was up 12/32 to 96 20/32, yielding 5.48%. Topping economic news, the

Labor Department

said the overall

Consumer Price Index

rose 0.1% in February while the core CPI -- excluding food and energy costs -- also edged up 0.1%.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 6 to 614.

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

was up 4 to 114.

Financials were higher in part on merger speculation. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was up 1%, while the

American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

was up 3%.

Transportation stocks gained handsomely. The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

was up 2%.

A rise in oil prices helped boost oil and oil service stocks. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

was up 1%, while the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

was also up 1%.

On the

New York Stock Exchange

, advancers were beating decliners 1,363 to 1,296 on 340 million shares. On the

Nasdaq Stock Market

, losers were beating winners 1,707 to 1,605 on 360 million shares.

On the NYSE, 35 issues had set new 52-week lows while 25 had touched new highs. On the Nasdaq, 62 issues had set new lows while new highs totaled 44.

On the Big Board,

America Online

(AOL)

was most active, with 13 million shares changing hands. It was up 4 3/16 to 113 1/4.

On the Nasdaq,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

was most active with 11 million shares changing hands. It was down 13/16 to 42 1/16.

Tech Focus

The major tech gauges were mostly higher. The

Nasdaq 100

was up fractionally, while the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

was up 1%. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

was down 1%. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was up 1%.

Selected Internet issues were soaring.

CMGI

(CMGI)

was up 15 3/16, or 9%, to 190 3/4 in the wake of its announcement last night that it set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Meanwhile,

Salomon Smith Barney

initiated coverage of

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

with an outperform rating and set a target price on the stock of $180. eBay was up 4 3/8 to 160 1/8.

The firm also started coverage of

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

with a buy rating and a $175 price target. The Internet retailer was up 7, or 5%, to 138. In addition,

drugstore.com

, a closely held online pharmacy in which Amazon.com owns a 40% stake, today announced an agreement with

Excite

(XCIT)

that promotes drugstore.com on select Excite portions of

Netscape's Netcenter

.

Elsewhere in the world of e-commerce,

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

, the bookselling giant, and Germany's

Bertelsmann

today filed a registration statement with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

for an IPO in

barnesandnoble.com

, which will trade on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

under the symbol "BNBN." Barnes & Noble's stock has spiked today, up 5 1/8, or 18%, to 34.

Motorola

(MOT)

unveiled a new line of digital personal communications products and promised Internet-browsing capability across its entire digital mobile phone range in the year 2000. Motorola unveiled the products at the

CeBIT

exhibition in Hanover, Germany. Motorola was up 3 to 72 1/2.

11:01 a.m.: Stocks Cling to Modest Gains

Stocks were slightly firmer at midmorning as bank and brokerage stocks were shining.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 20 to 9899. The

S&P 500

up 6 to 1304. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 11 to 2440. The small-cap

Russell 2000

up 1 to 399.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 10 to 619.

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

was up 3 to 113.

Financials got a boost in part on merger speculation. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was up 1%, while the

American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

was up 2%.

Chase

(CMB)

Chairman and Chief Executive Walter V. Shipley has made informal overtures to potential merger partners on Wall Street in the past year and has offered senior execs the possibility of a CEO slot in the merged firm, the Heard on the Street column in

The Wall Street Journal

reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Among the firms approached:

Goldman Sachs

,

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

,

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, the

Journal

reported, citing people familiar with his efforts.

The 30-year Treasury bond was up 6/32 to 96 14/32, yielding 5.50%.

The financial markets received more friendly news on the inflation front today. The

Labor Department

reported that the overall

Consumer Price Index

rose a benign 0.1% in February while the core CPI -- excluding food and energy costs -- also rose 0.1%.

Oil prices continued to climb today as the April crude oil futures contract rose to $15.32 a barrel, up 1.8%. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

was up 3%, while the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

was up 2%.

In the news,

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

, the bookselling giant, and Germany's

Bertelsmann

today filed a registration statement with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

for an IPO in

barnesandnoble.com

, which will trade on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

under the symbol "BNBN."

Elsewhere in new-issue land,

Wit Capital

plans to go public with its IPO, expected to be completed in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, also on market participants' minds is Friday's triple-witching -- the expiration of index options, equity options and index futures options -- which could also throw a few wrinkles into trading today and tomorrow.

On the

New York Stock Exchange

, advancers were beating decliners 1,326 to 1,192 on 241 million shares. On the

Nasdaq Stock Market

, losers were beating winners 1,569 to 1,514 on 249 million shares.

On the NYSE, 21 issues had set new 52-week highs while 28 had touched new lows. On the Nasdaq, 39 issues had set new highs while new lows totaled 42.

On the Big Board,

America Online

(AOL)

was most active, with 10 million shares changing hands. It was up 4 7/16 to 113 1/2.

On the Nasdaq,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

was most active with 9 million shares changing hands. It was down 11/16 to 42 1/4.

Company Focus: Warner-Lambert

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

was down 11/16 to 70 13/16 after a

Los Angles Times

story detailing a proprietary study revealed that there have been far more deaths in diabetes patients on the company's drug

Rezulin

than previously understood. The study shows that last year there were 65 liver-related deaths among diabetics in which Rezulin was cited as a contributing factor, up from 14 in 1997. An additional 12 havev been reported this year, according to the article. The number of potentially Rezulin-related deaths is about five times as many as the company had acknowledged previously.

--

Jesse Eisinger

9:57 a.m.: Stocks Up Modestly in Early Trading

Stocks were slightly higher in the early going.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 13 to 9892. The

S&P 500

was up 4 to 1302.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 11 to 2440. The

Russell 2000

was up 1 to 399.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 9 to 618.

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

was up 1 to 111.

The 30-year Treasury bond was up 15/32 to 96 23/32, yielding 5.48%.

Meanwhile,

Wit Capital

plans to go public with its IPO, expected to be completed in the second quarter.

Most Up at Open -- NYSE

BP Amoco (BPA) , up 1 13/16 to 100 1/16

.

Most Up at Open -- Nasdaq

CMGI (CMGI) , up 16 5/8 to 192

: The company set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Most Down at Open -- NYSE

Nokia (NOKA) , down 2 7/16 to 143 9/16

.

Most Down at Open -- Nasdaq

Bottomline (EPAY) - Get Report, down 6 1/8 to 71 1/2

.