Friday: Microsoft Earnings Power Stocks Upward

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By John J. Edwards III
Staff Reporter

At least for now, traders have learned to stop worrying and love the earnings.

As concerns about interest rates and growth rates faded, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

rocked and rolled today but managed to add 44.95 to 6703.55. With the week's gain of 311.86, the blue-chip index is 5.4% below its March 11 high of 7085.16 as it continues to flee the so-called 10% correction level.

The broader

S&P 500

moved higher as well, and

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

big earnings surprise powered the tech-fat

Nasdaq Composite Index

to another upswing. (

The Street

took a look into MSFT's news in today's

Midday Musings.) With no major economic data released lately, the bond market relaxed some more. The yield on the bellwether 30-year Treasury bond declined to 7.05%.

Stanley Nabi, chief economist and chairman of the investment policy and strategy committee at the

Wood Struthers & Winthrop

unit of

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

(take a deep breath), said the ongoing snap-back rally in the Dow isn't necessarily a cause for comfort. "Typically a sharp correction of the type we have seen invites a temporary reversal, which is what happened," he said. "Chartists tell you that the reversal is typically one-third to one-half of the decline."

Strong earnings have propped up the market this week, Nabi said, but next week should bring new trouble. "The buying here has been very cautious and has mostly been in the big-cap stocks," he said. "It is not the type of broad market that one should see at the end of a correction. We'll start to see second thoughts on the rebound."

Tobacco stocks puffed higher, with

CNBC

reporting that a

Sanford C. Bernstein

analyst expects the much-discussed negotiations between the companies and antitobacco forces to yield a settlement within four to eight weeks. The analyst also said tobacco-injury trials set for this summer are likely to be stayed.

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

, with a gain of 2 3/4 to 44 3/8, was the Dow's best performer. Also wafting higher were

RJR Nabisco

(RN)

, up 1 1/4 to 34,

Loews

(LTR)

, up 3 1/2 to 93 3/8, and

American Brands

(AMB)

, up 1 1/4 to 53 5/8. The

American Stock Exchange Tobacco Index

, an option index that includes those four stocks and five others, rose 7.68 to 295.47.

In a bold move seeking to secure leadership in the hot Latin American telecommunications market, soon-to-merge

Concert

partners

MCI

(MCIC)

and

British Telecom

(BTY)

, which now loses Telef=nica as a part of its

Unisource

venture, edged down 1/8 to 33 5/8.

In other big telecom news,

AirTouch Communications

(ATI) - Get Report

agreed to acquire the wireless-phone interests of

U S West Media

(UMG)

in a $5 billion deal. The merger would leave AirTouch with 212 million potential customers and 10 million actual customers. Its shares jumped 1 to 24 1/2 and U S West Media moved up 3/8 to 17 5/8.

Many computer stocks bucked the upswing in technology despite yesterday's bullish forecast by

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

CEO Michael Dell. Dell the person said he expects the computer industry to grow at a 20% rate and his own company even faster, but Dell the company nevertheless shed 1/2 to 76 3/8.

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

lost 1 1/8 to 49 3/4,

Gateway 2000

(GATE)

slid 1 to 55 1/8 and

Compaq

(CPQ)

dipped 3 3/4 to 72, the last on a downgrade to short-term hold from buy at

SoundView Financial Group

. The firm kept its long-term rating at buy.

Another computer company,

CDW Computer

(CDWC)

, took a surprising pummeling after reporting first-quarter earnings of 52 cents per share. That was well ahead of the First Call expectation of 47 cents and the year-ago 26 cents, but the company nevertheless plunged 5 to 41 1/2.

Reuters

reported speculation that investors were spooked by a decline in the company's average order size.

Silicon Graphics

(SGI)

plunged 4 1/8 to 12 7/8 on reactions to its dismal third-quarter operating earnings of 9 cents per share, far below the First Call view of 27 cents and the year-ago 31 cents. Today's close was a 52-week low.

The Street

warned readers away from SGI back on

Jan. 31, when it closed at 27 3/8.

Idexx Laboratories

(IDXX) - Get Report

reported first-quarter earnings of 2 cents per share, a penny short of the First Call estimate and down from 18 cents a year ago. The company's shares fell 2 1/16 to 9 15/16.

Vector Securities

saw a buying opportunity, raising its rating to buy from attractive.

Athleticwear standout

Russell

(RML)

got beaten up for its disappointing first-quarter earnings of 30 cents per share, in line with the year-ago figure but 4 cents short of the First Call expectation. It lost 8 1/2 to 27 1/4. Other sports-related issues continued to slide, with

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

down 2 to 52 1/4,

Reebok

(RBK)

down 5 5/8 to 40 1/8 and

Converse

(CVE) - Get Report

down 3 1/8 to 14 3/4.

Xylan

(XYLN)

rallied 2 to 15 5/8 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 14 cents per share, beating First Call's estimate by a penny. The company earned 6 cents a year earlier.

HCIA

(HCIA)

surged 2 7/8 to 18 1/4 after previewing first-quarter earnings in line with analysts' expectations, which it said called for 21 cents per share. The First Call estimate was actually a little lower, at 20 cents.

Siebel

(SEBL)

shot up 3 3/4 to 17 1/2 on its first-quarter earnings of 7 cents per share, 2 cents better than the First Call view. The company earned a penny in the year-ago period.

Auspex

(ASPX)

fell 1 3/4 to 9 1/8 despite beating First Call's expectation by 1 cent with third-quarter earnings of 25 cents per share.

Morgan Stanley

cut its rating on Auspex to neutral from outperform.