SAN FRANCISCO -- The old economy strikes back -- with a vengeance.

Blue-chip stocks rose steadily and sharply today as investors scrambled for the relative safety of value stocks amid an ongoing selloff in tech names. A mad rush into staid, old blue-chips seemed -- at times -- reminiscent of past gains by the

Nasdaq Composite Index

, which suffered its third-consecutive triple-digit decline.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

climbed 320.17, or 3.3%, to 10,131.41, notching the fourth-largest point gain in its long history. The percentage rise was not similarly significant.

The venerable index was led by a wide selection of its constituents, including

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

,

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

,

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

,

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

and

United Technologies

(DD) - Get Report

.

Of the Dow's 30 components, only

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

ended in arrears.

Meanwhile the

S&P 500

rose 33.01, or 2.4%, to 1392.16 behind strong gains in financial, consumer, utility, transportation and cyclical stocks. Notably, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

gained 139.94, or 5.9%, to 2521.71 and the

Dow Jones Utility Average

climbed 9.90, or 3.6%, to 284.02; both averages have been down significantly in recent months.

"It's a great rally and well needed to boost confidence," said one listed trader. "At these levels, there's a lot of bargains. You've got to buy 'em."

The Dow's ability to reclaim 10,000 could signal a bottom for that average, the trader said. But he quickly noted follow-through will be key, especially with the

Producer Price Index

for February due tomorrow, followed by the

Consumer Price Index

on Friday.

Those potential obstacles were relegated to afterthoughts today, however.

In technology,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

rose 2.2% and

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

gained 1.5% after posting better-than-expected earnings

last night. But those bellwethers could not rescue the Nasdaq, which closed down 123.95, or 2.6%, to 4582.68 after trading as low as 4568.67. The

Nasdaq 100

shed 2.3%.

At its nadir, the Comp was 9.5% below its all-time closing high of 5048.62 and finished the session 9.2% below that

March 10 close.

The Comp continues to be hampered by weakness in recent big gainers such as

E.piphany

(EPNY)

, which fell 24.4% after announcing

plans to acquire

Octane Software

for $3.2 billion in stock.

Other recent high-flyers suffering reversals included

Akami

(AKAM) - Get Report

,

VeriSign

(VRSN) - Get Report

and

Vingette

(VIGN)

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, which slid 8.7% despite announcing a 3-for-1 stock split.

Additionally, chip and equipment makers such as

PMC Sierra

(PMCS)

retreated from their recent big advance. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

fell 2.3%.

Internet favorites also stumbled, including

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

and

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

despite rumors of an alliance between the firms.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index fell 77.93 or 6.1%, to 1195.50.

Meanwhile, biotech stocks stabilized after yesterday's

whipping.

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

gained 13.3% after

Credit Suisse First Boston

upped its recommendation to strong buy from buy.

Also,

Enzo Biochem

(ENZ) - Get Report

rose 4.2% after receiving a patent for technology that corrects certain gene abnormalities.

Immunex

(IMNX)

was also on the rebound, although other biotech names continued to fall.

Incyte Pharmaceuticals

(INCY) - Get Report

fell 12.3% despite positive comments from

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

. The

American Stock Exchange Biotech Index

rose 2.1%.

A Head-Shaking Day

"This is a market that is repairing itself with such skill and precision, it's incredible," said Scott Bleier, chief investment strategist at

Prime Charter

. "It's working off the unusual excess that has occurred between the tech and biotech and real world companies. Everything is doing good except the things that got out of control."

Indeed, big gains were registered by sector gauges, including the

S&P Chemical Index

, up 8.1%; the

American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index

, higher by 7.4%; the

Morgan Stanley Consumer Index

, up 6.7%; the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

leapt 7.5% and the

Amex Airline Index

jumped 8.2%. In other words, all the stuff that hasn't been working for much of this year.

Bleier attributed today's "ballistic" blue-chip advance to a growing sense the

Federal Reserve

will not raise rates beyond its next two meetings.

Bruce Bittles, market strategist at

J.C. Bradford

in Nashville, observed last week's decline in

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

may have been the "last straw" that sent most blue-chip stocks into "oversold territory." Thus, they were primed for today's remarkable advance.

"I think a lot of the action is related to expiration," Bittles added, referring to this Friday's triple-witching expiration of stock options and futures, and index futures. "I think a lot of this is the closing out of March programs but there's no way to document that."

Meanwhile, despite the bloodletting in the past three days in so-called momentum favorites, Bleier argued there hasn't been enough pain or fear to suggest that game has ended.

"You get these little rolling corrections without anybody getting real scared" and then the Nasdaq favorites rebound sharply, he said. "I think that's what's going to happen again. You get a little correction and people start calling for the end of the world. But there hasn't really been any fear. All there is is money that has to be put to work and a serious desire to own" tech stocks.

Among other indices, the

Russell 2000

fell 14.12, or 2.5%, to 558.87 while the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

fell 19.39, or 1.9%, to 996.12.

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, 1.3 million shares were exchanged while advancing stocks led declining issues 1,914 to 1,122. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action 1.9 billion shares traded while losers led 2,739 to 1,544. New 52-week lows bested new highs 130 to 26 on the Big Board and by 164 to 52 in over-the-counter trading.

The price of the 10-year Treasury note rose 2/32 to 101 17/32, its yield dipping to 6.29%.

Market data above are preliminary. For coverage of today's top stocks in the news, see the Company Report, published separately

.