Irresistible Force (Tech) Meets Movable Object (Market)

A seemingly unstoppable high-tech rally lashes the Nasdaq to a record and drags the Dow to the plus side.
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Disparities abound in the financial world. Major market proxies continue to trade at or near all-time high levels while the majority of stocks lost ground in 1998. Meanwhile, some Wall Street pros decry the six- and even seven-figure bonuses they are receiving as insufficient, while the majority of families in this country struggle to make ends meet.

But we digress. In the microcosm today, disparities were also evident: Technology stocks sizzled, sending the

Nasdaq Composite Index

to a new all-time high, while blue-chip gauges struggled before securing gains. Corporate profits for the majority of bellwethers bested expectations, but fell short of year-ago results. Brazil's

Bovespa

rose another 3.8% but its currency fell further while interest rates climbed higher. Some market players fretted about

Federal Reserve

Chairman

Alan Greenspan's

speech tomorrow, while others insist he won't say anything nasty in the wake of Brazil's devaluation.

In the end, the concerns were largely outweighed by the positives (perceived or actual).

The Nasdaq Comp jumped 59.96, or 2.6%, to 2408.16, eclipsing its previous best of 2384.59, set Jan. 11. The point gain is the ninth-biggest in Nasdaq history.

In addition to excitement about

@Home's

(ATHM) - Get Report

buyout offer for

Excite

(XCIT)

, the index was aided by its old-fashioned tech stalwarts.

The

Nasdaq 100

climbed 2.6% as nearly all tech bellwethers ended higher. Notable gains were registered by

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

, up 9.7% after

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

upped its price target, and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

, which gained 3.9% ahead of its earnings report. After the close, Microsoft reported fiscal second-quarter profits of 73 cents per share, well ahead of the 23-analyst consensus for 59 cents.

'Everyone is willing to chase,' said Charles Payne of Wall Street Strategies. 'It's the herd mentality at its optimum. I bet 50% of the people who bought Exodus today don't know what it does, and 90% don't care.'

In the wake of the merger agreement, Excite gained 62.2%, @Home rose 13.2%, and

Lycos

(LCOS)

jumped 28.5% in the "who's next?" trade, fueling gains for

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index, which rose 43.92, or 8.7%, to 548.29. But the enthusiasm was somewhat limited, especially by Internet standards.

Onsale

(ONSL)

fell 13% after forecasting a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter loss.

The

Russell 2000

moved quietly higher, rising 3.84, or 0.9%, to 430.89 while the

S&P 500

closed up 7.63, or 0.6%, to 1250.89 after falling as low as 1234.91 at its nadir.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, meanwhile, rose as high as 9399.25 in the opening minutes of trading but tumbled soon thereafter. The index fell as low as 9210.01 before recouping all the lost ground to close up 14.67, or 0.2%, to 9355.22.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

was the best performer among Dow components, followed by

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

. AT&T rose 8.5% amid excitement about its pending ownership stake in @Home, which will come with the completion of its purchase of

TCI

(TCOMA)

. AT&T also benefited from a favorable ruling by the

Supreme Court

, which rejected an appeal by three regional Baby Bells regarding restrictions on their participation in the long-distance market.

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

exerted the greatest negative influence on the Dow amid a mixed bag of earnings news on so-called Super Tuesday.

J.P. Morgan posted fourth-quarter earnings that bested expectations but were down 46.2% from the prior year. Similarly,

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

,

Bear Stearns

(BSC)

and

PaineWebber

(PWJ)

each beat estimates but fell short of year-ago results. Meanwhile,

BankAmerica

(BAC) - Get Report

missed both its prior-year results and consensus estimates. In the end, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

slid 0.9% while the

American Stock Exchange/Broker Dealer Index

dipped 0.1%.

"Today was a little bit of a roller coaster: We went down the big hill and then came back up," said Doug Myers, vice president of equity trading at

Interstate/Johnson Lane

in Atlanta. "The Nasdaq was up all day and proved the stalwart in today's marketplace, but on the Big Board it was not a complete sellout."

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading 785.5 million shares were exchanged while advancers edged declining issues 1,507 to 1,499. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action 1.066 billion shares traded -- extending the string of sessions with more than a billion shares traded to a record nine -- while gainers led 2,258 to 1,892. New 52-week highs bested new lows 92 to 26 on the Big Board and by 183 to 33 in over-the-counter trading.

Myers was unable to attribute the ultimate gains to anything in particular, saying he was focused on "grinding it out trying to trade specific stocks" rather than the big picture. But "there was definitely a resonant hum out there," the trader said. "It was vibrating, things were moving. The bees were swarming."

Mojo Rising, Rising, Rising ...

"It's a continuation of the same thing," Charles Payne, president and chief analyst at

Wall Street Strategies

, said of today's action. "If a stock is hot, everyone is piling in. The secret to the success in keeping this market so hot is, no one wants to sell unless it's an absolute must. When we pulled back, it was from not a lot of buying vs. a lot of selling."

Payne said the action last week shows the market, which he described as "high-maintenance," is also "definitely vulnerable." But like so many others, he continues to stay invested. "I'm cautious, but we must play the game," he said. "There's no way we watch the parade go by. Whether you believe in it or not, you've got to play."

Exodus Communications

(EXDS)

was a prime example of a stock up today on pure momentum trading, the analyst said. With no news evident, the provider of Internet system and network management software rose 34%.

"Everyone is willing to chase," Payne said. "It's the herd mentality at its optimum. I bet 50% of the people who bought Exodus today don't know what it does, and 90% don't care."

Other names on the rise included "fallen angels" such as

Omnipoint

(OMPT)

, up 12%, and

Fruit of the Loom

(FTL)

, which climbed 7.9%; Payne said both were the subject of takeover rumors.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

rose 29.32, or 0.9%, to 3177.85; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

fell 1.55, or 0.5%, to 304.99; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

slid 1.68, or 0.2%, to 707.61.

The 30-year Treasury bond closed down 14/32 to 101 22/32, its yield rising to 5.14%.

Elsewhere in North American equities, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

fell 63.92, or 0.9%, to 6758.90 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

dropped 34.34, or 0.9%, to 3603.43.

Tuesday's Company Report

By

Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

As noted above, Web search engine and directory company Excite shot up 42 5/16, or 62%, to an all-time high of 110 after cable-based Internet service provider @Home agreed to buy it in $6.7 billion stock swap. @Home hopped 13 1/2, or 13.2%, to 115 3/8. Under the deal, Excite shareholders will receive 1.04 shares of @Home for each share of Excite. In sympathy, Lycos popped 25, or 28.5%, to 112 15/16.

Elsewhere in Netland, online publisher

CNet

(CNET) - Get Report

took in 27 3/8, or 38%, to an all-time high of 99 3/4 after agreeing to create the first Internet portal service aimed at users with high-speed modems with

General Electric's

(GE) - Get Report

NBC

. GE lifted 11/16 to 101 7/16.

Online retailer Onsale dropped 7 5/8, or 13.1%, to 50 1/4 after saying it expects to report a fourth-quarter loss of 15 cents to 17 cents a share on revenue of $59 million. The 14-analyst prediction called for a loss of 16 cents compared with the year-ago loss of 9 cents.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

AirTouch Communications

(ATI) - Get Report

grew 9 1/4, or 11.1%, to an all-time high of 92 5/8 after agreeing to be acquired by Britain's

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

for roughly $60 billion in and stock, creating the world's largest wireless company with a combined market capitalization of about $110 billion. Vodafone picked up 8 1/2 to 184 1/2. The new company, to be known as Vodafone AirTouch, will rank as the third-largest public company in the U.K.

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

, which rung up 4 3/4, or 8.9%, to 57 7/8, pulled out of the bidding war for AirTouch Friday.

Cellular Communications

(CCIL)

jumped 12 1/2, or 18.7%, to an all-time high of 79 33/64 after Italy's

Olivetti

and Germany's

Mannesmann

said they increased the cash offer for the company to $80 a share from a previous offer of $65.75 a share.

FDP

(FDPC)

climbed 3 3/8, or 29%, to an all-time high of 15 3/16 after privately held

SunGard Data Systems

agreed to acquire the company in a $59 million stock swap.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Online brokers were up today, boosted in part by better-than-expected earnings from the No. 1 player

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

. Schwab closed at 60 5/8, up 7/8 from Friday's close;

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

closed at 52 1/2, up 5 1/8; and

E*Trade

(EGRP)

closed at 90 3/16, up 4 3/16.

Schwab, whose customers make about 30% of online trades, reported earnings of 26 cents a share for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with 15 cents in the year-ago quarter. The consensus estimate was 23 cents. It reported net income of $106.4 million, up 69% from income of $63.1 million in the year-ago quarter. Revenue was $788.6 million, up 27% from revenue of $620.6 million in the fourth quarter last year. In addition, Schwab opened 397,000 new accounts, bringing its total to 5.6 million, including 2.2 million active online accounts. Online trades averaged 93,000 a day and made up 61% of all trades.

Ameritrade, the last big online broker, plans to report earnings Thursday after the close.

--

Amy Olmstead

BankAmerica lost 9/16 to 64 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 91 cents a share, 2 cents short of the 28-analyst consensus and down from the year-ago 94 cents.

Bank of New York

(BK) - Get Report

sliced off 1 15/16, or 5.2%, to 35 1/8 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share, on target with the 23-analyst forecast and above the year-ago 37 cents.

Bank One

(ONE) - Get Report

fell 1 to 54 1/8 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 88 cents a share, in line with the 24-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 75 cents.

Chase

(CMB)

rose 3 1/2 to 74 3/8 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.31 a share, beating the 20-analyst estimate of $1.19 and topping the year-earlier 94 cents.

Chubb

(CB) - Get Report

gave up 3 5/16, or 5.3%, to 59 5/8 after yesterday warning it expects fourth-quarter earnings of 90 cents a share, below the 16-analyst consensus estimate of $1.08 and down from the year-ago $1.01.

Clorox

(CLX) - Get Report

added 2 1/8 to 112 after posting second-quarter earnings of 55 cents, beating the 12-analyst prediction by a penny and topping the year-ago 47 cents.

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Report

shed 3/8 to 55 5/8 after announcing fourth-quarter earnings of $1.29 a share, beating the 11-analyst estimate of $1.26 and the year-ago $1.20.

Enron

(ENE)

vaulted 1 3/16 to 65 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 48 cents a share, beating the 15-analyst estimate by a penny but shrinking from the year-ago 53 cents.

Enron Oil & Gas

(EOG) - Get Report

jumped 11/16 to 17 1/2 after yesterday posting fourth-quarter earnings of 6 cents a share, a penny better than the 20-analyst forecast but down from the year-ago 28 cents.

Freddie Mac

slid 5/16 to 59 1/8 after recording fourth-quarter earnings of 62 cents a share, 2 cents ahead of the 18-analyst forecast and up from the year-earlier 51 cents.

J.P. Morgan lost 2 13/16 to 105 15/16 after announcing fourth-quarter earnings of 42 cents a share, including charges related to cost reduction programs, above the 12-analsyt view of 38 cents but below the year-ago $1.33.

Merrill Lynch shaved off 1 1/4 to 71 1/8 after recording fourth-quarter earnings of 86 cents a share, crushing the 12-analyst estimate of 64 cents but falling below the year-earlier $1.15.

Northwest Airlines

gained 5/16 to 26 13/16 after posting a fourth-quarter loss of $1.49 a share, narrower than the 11-analyst call for a loss of $1.51 and behind the year-ago profit of 97 cents.

PaineWebber tumbled 3/8 to 37 1/4 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 63 cents a share, beating the eight-analyst consensus of 55 cents but falling below the year-ago 68 cents.

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

lowered 1/16 to 115 7/8 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 54 cents a share, 2 cents higher than the 27-analyst outlook and above the year-ago 38 cents.

Rockwell

(ROK) - Get Report

skidded 1/8 to 41 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 70 cents a share, 7 cents ahead of the 10-analyst view and up from the year-ago 59 cents.

Southern

(SO) - Get Report

shrank 9/16 to 28 1/16 after recording fourth-quarter earnings of 25 cents a share, falling 4 cents short of the 12-analyst forecast and dropping down from the year-ago 32 cents.

Wabash

(WNC) - Get Report

plunged 4, or 20.1%, to 15 15/16 after saying its fourth-quarter results will fall below expectations. The four-analyst forecast called for 40 cents a share vs. the year-ago 31 cents.

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

slid 11/16 to 36 13/16 after announcing fourth-quarter earnings of 46 cents a share, in line with the 25-analyst estimate and higher than the year-ago 39 cents.

Additional earnings reports are compiled in a separate table.

Analyst actions

Oracle expanded 4 9/16, or 9.7%, to an all-time high of 51 11/16 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised its price target on the stock to 58 from 43 a share, while maintaining an outperform.

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

sloughed off 3 3/8 to 66 7/16 after

Salomon Smith Barney

downgraded it to outperform from buy based on safety concerns over the company's

Rezulin

diabetes drug and looming patent expirations on two other drugs.

IBM grew 7 5/16 to 192 1/4 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst Thomas Kraemer said Big Blue, scheduled to post earnings tomorrow, could beat fourth-quarter estimates by a few cents. The 21-analyst outlook calls for $2.45 a share vs. the year-earlier $2.11.

Phelps Dodge

(PD) - Get Report

dropped 2 3/8, or 5%, to 49 5/16 after

Goldman Sachs

slashed it to market underperform from perform.

Miscellany

Compaq

(CPQ)

advanced 2 1/4 to an all-time high of 48 7/8 after saying it bought $5 billion in computer-related products from Taiwan in 1998 and was expected to buy more this year.

CNBC's

David Faber

said the company is close to making an Internet deal.