Friday: A Middling End to It All - TheStreet

The witches brew was tame.

Expected volatility from the double witching of options expirations never manifested itself today as the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

traded within a narrow range, ending with a gain of 4.23 to 6931.61.

The broader market finished lower with the

S&P 500

off 0.96 to 801.84, the

Nasdaq Composite Index

tumbling 10.09 to 1337.31 and the

Russell 2000

dropping 1.19 to 336.37. Advancers nipped decliners 1,271 to 1,210 on the Big Board as volume reached 481 million shares.

The bond market was quieter than the local library, with no major economic news and

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan

talking about arcane fiscal and governmental policy rather than the economy. The yield on the benchmark 30-year Treasury bill edged higher to 6.63%. Traders are awaiting Greenspan's Humphrey-Hawkins testimony before Congress next week.

"While the basic fundamental drivers of the market are intact, liquidity is low at this point, with 5.7% of mutual fund net assets held in cash, and leadership is lacking," says A.C. Moore, chief investment strategist of

Principal Financial Securities/Dunvegan Associates

.

The technology sector, which has of late surrendered its leadership role, got hit again today after a

SoundView Financial

analyst made comments that personal computer manufacturers will have a tough time in the second quarter.

Mark Specker of SoundView said that gross margins in the personal computer industry have peaked for the foreseeable future and that many of the big PC manufacturers will have to follow

Compaq's

(CPQ)

recent sharp price cuts, though he did not cut his ratings or earnings estimates on any of the stocks.

Compaq dropped 2 7/8 to 79 3/4,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

tumbled 1 3/8 to 71 1/8 and

Gateway 2000

(GATE)

eased 1 1/2 to 60 1/2.

Among the bellwether tech stocks,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

lost 3 1/2 to 146 3/8,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

dipped 1/4 to 95 and

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Report

sagged 4 1/2 to 58 3/8.

Scholastic's

(SCHL) - Get Report

stock is smarting, down 25 to 36 3/4, after the company announced last night that it expects to post a loss of 70 to 80 cents per share in its third quarter as compared with

First Call

estimates of profit of 68 cents per share. This morning there was a flurry of downgrades from brokerage houses.

The once-highflying

Diana Corp.

(DNA)

fell 7/8 to 8 after its two-day trading halt was lifted this afternoon.

The New York Stock Exchange

says it will suspend trading of the stock by March 10 because operating assets have been substantially reduced.

Giftware distributor

Department 56

(DFS) - Get Report

tumbled 4 7/8 to 19 after the company reported net income of 19 cents per share for its fourth quarter as compared with 25 cents per share for the same quarter last year. First Call estimates called for earnings of 21 cents per share.

Mafco Consolidated Group

(MFO) - Get Report

, which owns stakes in

Consolidated Cigar

(CIG) - Get Report

and

Power Control Technologies

(ATP)

, gained 4 3/8 to 42 after the company said directors had approved the purchase of publicly held shares and a special cash dividend valued at $43.50 a share.

Graco

(GGG) - Get Report

, a manufacturer of construction equipment, slipped 2 1/8 to 32 3/4 after

Dain Bosworth

cut its rating from buy to hold.

By Avi Stieglitz

astieglitz@thestreet.com