Repeat after me: "Dow 10,000 is NOT a big deal." One more time. And exhale....

The explosive blue-chip rally ran out of gas today, leaving the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

in modestly negative territory and spoiling the five-figured Dow dreams of investors and media outlets alike.

The venerable index climbed as high as 9958.77 early on but never seriously threatened 10,000. The Dow flip-flopped around break-even for much of the final hour of trading before ending down 21.09, or 0.2%, to 9876.35.

The

S&P 500

also fell from its recent record jaunt, sliding 3.09, or 0.2%, to 1294.59. The

Russell 2000

dipped 2.70, or 0.7%, to 398.38.

With the media focused on the ethereal implications of Dow 10,000, real-world trading was dictated by profit warnings from

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

and

Rite-Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

. Disappointing revenue growth from

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

, which reported quarterly profits

last night, furthered the descent.

Strength in financial components

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

and

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

, as well as consumer favorite

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

kept the Dow's losses in check.

The big financials climbed in concert with the bond market, which improved after the

Labor Department

reported its

Producer Price Index

fell 0.4% in February. Economist had expected only a 0.1% decline. Core PPI, which excludes food and energy, was flat vs. expectations for a 0.1% rise. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond rose 15/32 to 95 28/32, its yield sliding to 5.53%.

"It was a Caterpillar catastrophe," said Bill Allyn, head of block trading at

Jefferies

. "That's a big, cyclical, bellwether-type stock. That does not bode well."

In addition to Caterpillar, which fell 12.2%, the Dow was restrained most notably by

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

, which fell along with the majority of tech bellwethers.

Regarding Dow 10,000, Allyn said simply: "It's a media event." Like many market pros, he was not terribly disappointed or surprised the Dow didn't breach the historic mark, noting recent gains have been impressive and perhaps overstated.

"It is a psychological barrier," the trader said. "The conventional wisdom is we're going to fail a couple of times on the attempt. But if earnings in the first quarter come out and prove corporate America is still strong and we have low inflation, there's no reason we shouldn't go through

10,000 and beyond."

Near-term, Allyn expects the Dow to mount a few more attempts at 10,000 but fail and retreat some 5% to 7%. But "we'll eventually have an assault through that number," he said, as long as first quarter earnings are solid.

Technology's Oracle Comes Up Snake-Eyes

Oracle, meanwhile, tumbled 22.4% and was a heavy influence on the

Nasdaq Composite Index

, which fell 30.72, or 1.3%, to 2381.53. That was an improvement on its nadir of 2362.87.

With

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

, and

Mircosoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

joining Oracle on the downside, the

Nasdaq 100

shed 1.7%.

The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

fell 2.2%, largely as a result of last night's profit warning by

National Semiconductor

(NSM)

, which fell 5.3%.

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

slid 6.3% in sympathy.

Internet names, which have outperformed traditional tech bellwethers of late, fell prey to the selling as well.

CMGI

(CMGI)

slid 10% after saying last night it will not likely bid to acquire

Lycos

(LCOS)

, which lost 9.2%, (

TheStreet.com

reported on the CMGI-Lycos-

USA Networks

(USAI) - Get Report

in a recent

story.)

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index, of which CMGI and Lycos are both components, closed down 16.08, or 2.8%, to 568.

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

fell 2.91, or 2.7%, to 105.47.

"Technology is notorious for getting ahead of itself and now it's consolidating," said Brian Piskorowski, market analyst at

Prudential Securities

. "With technology in the backseat it's now a Dow story again. But technology has taken us to where we are now. We're forgetting who got us here."

The tech sector is currently "mired in earnings pre-announcement season, which is giving us this lack of follow-through and conviction, this state of anxiety," Piskorowski said, noting Prudential remains bullish on the group. "Once we get through first quarter earnings and people see the numbers are OK, I can see all the negative sentiment out of the market

and the tech group going forward."

The market watcher dismissed the importance of what he described as "Dow 10,000 angst." But he was disappointed in today's action for one reason: "Just what we needed, another weekend to ponder what Dow 10,000 really means."

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading 825.9 million shares traded while declining stocks bested advancers 1,540 to 1,381. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity 922.1 million shares were exchanged while losers led 2,220 to 1,671. New 52-week lows led new highs 82 to 58 on the Big Board and by 82 to 57 in over-the-counter trading.

In addition to the financials, blue-chip proxies were able to avoid bigger losses thanks to strength in energy plays as well as transports. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

and

American Stock Exchange Airline Index

each climbed 2.8%.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

rose 9.86, or 0.3%, to 3267.51; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

gained 2.94, or 1%, to 304.51; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

was off 0.44, or 0.1%, to 721.21.

For the week, the Dow industrials rose 140.27, or 1.4%; the S&P 500 gained 19.13 or 1.5%; the Nasdaq Comp rose 43.26, or 1.9%; the Russell 2000 rose 0.37, or 0.1%; TheStreet.com Internet index gained 33.66, or 6.3%; TheStreet.com E-Commerce index rose 9.95, or 10.4%; the Dow transports fell 45.28, or 1.4%; the Dow utilities added 3, or 1%; and the Amex Composite rose 13.80, or 1.9%.

Elsewhere in North American equities today, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

slipped 3.69 to 6562.06 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

rose 17.93 to 4697.73. For the week, the TSE 300 gained 146.95, or 2.3%, and the IPC jumped 369.93, or 8.5%.

Friday'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, Caterpillar declined 6 3/16, or 12.2%, to 44 11/16 after warning its first-quarter earnings will fall 50% below estimates because of lower sales. The 15-analyst view called for 84 cents a share this quarter vs. the year-ago 83 cents. The heavy equipment maker blamed the lower sales volume on weak demand from agriculture, mining and oil and gas customers and on poor economic conditions in Latin America.

Microsoft slipped 1 1/8 to 160 3/16 after last night saying it was on track to meet analysts' third-quarter earnings estimates but that it's experiencing a sequential slowdown in revenue.

TheStreet.com

reported on the details of the conference call in a separate

story yesterday. Today,

Credit Suisse First Boston

reiterated its strong buy rating on the company.

Fellow software company Oracle tumbled 8 1/4, or 22.4%, to 28 9/16 on worries about its licensed database revenue growth. The company posted third-quarter earnings in line with estimates last night.

TSC

took a closer look at the report in a

story last night. Today,

Merrill Lynch

dropped Oracle to intermediate accumulate from buy, keeping the stock at a long-term buy. Both

NationsBanc Montgomery Securities

and

Warburg Dillon Read

downgraded the stock to hold from buy. In sympathy, IBM gave up 4 7/8 to 178.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

GeoScience

(GSCI)

slid 2 3/16, or 22%, to an all-time low of 7 7/8 even after its parent company,

Tech-Sym

(TSY)

, said the terms and conditions for GeoScience's $200 million acquisition by

Core Laboratories

(CLB) - Get Report

were "true and correct." Yesterday, Core said the conditions were unsatisfactory. Tech-Sym fell 1 3/8, or 5.7%, to 22 5/8; Core gained 2 1/4, or 9.9%, to 24 15/16.

Lowrance Electronics

(LEIX)

climbed 9/16, or 11.5%, to 5 7/16 after

Orbital Sciences

(ORB)

agreed to acquire the company in a stock swap valued at $24.1 million, or $6.41 a share. Orbital scored 2, or 10.4%, to 21 5/16.

Paxson Communications

(PAX)

flew 1 3/16, or 14.5%, to 9 3/8 after the

New York Post

reported

America Online

(AOL)

,

General Electric's

(GE) - Get Report

NBC

unit and

Time Warner

(TWX)

are rumored to be interested in buying the company's

PaxNet

unit.

Pioneer Hi-Bred

(PHB) - Get Report

soared 9 13/16, or 40.1%, to 34 5/16 after saying it's in talks with

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

about possible business combinations. DuPont lowered 3/8 to 57 3/4.

SM&A

(WINS) - Get Report

shed 3 5/16, or 20.4%, to 12 3/4 after saying it won't complete a previously announced sale of

StamiNet

and that it plans to liquidate the value-added hardware reseller. As a result, the company sees a fourth-quarter loss of 5 cents a share, instead of the previously expected 3-cent loss.

Trak Auto

(TRKA)

jumped 1 1/2, or 21.8%, to 8 3/8 after closely held

HalArt

agreed to buy the company for $53.2 million.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Day Runner

(DAYR)

collapsed 2 1/4, or 16.8%, to 11 3/16 after last night warning it expects a third-quarter loss of 35 cents to 40 cents a share, below estimates for a loss of 16 cents. The company, which earned 9 cents in the year-ago quarter, blamed the warning on a industry trend of retailers shifting the inventory burden to manufacturers.

Luby's

(LUB) - Get Report

vaulted 15/16, or 6.8%, to 14 13/16 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, 2 cents higher than both the six-analyst estimate and the year-ago figure.

North Face

(TNFI)

sloughed off 1 9/16, or 11.9%, to 11 5/8 after saying its auditors are questioning certain barter transactions in December 1997 and January 1998.

Prodigy

(PRGY)

lifted 2 1/8, or 5.3%, to 43 after last night reporting a narrower fourth-quarter loss than in the year-ago period.

Rite-Aid plunged 14 7/16, or 39%, to an annual low of 22 9/16 after saying it sees fourth-quarter earnings coming in around 30 cents to 32 cents a share because of store opening and relocation costs. Analysts called for a profit of 52 cents vs. the year-ago 44 cents.

Safeskin

(SFSK)

dwindled 6 11/32, or 41.4%, to an annual low of 8 31/32 after last night warning its first-quarter and full-year 1999 earnings will fall below estimates due to high distributor inventories and a slower ramp of new orders. Today,

BT Alex. Brown

lowered the stock to market perform from buy, and Merrill Lynch lowered it to intermediate-term neutral from accumulate while maintaining its long-term buy.

Offerings and stock actions

DoubleClick

(DCLK)

spiked up 24 1/16, or 22.6%, to an all-time high of 131 after last night announcing a 2-for-1 stock split.

Analyst actions

Computer Task

(TSK)

slouched 1 1/2, or 7.6%, to an annual low of 18 1/4 after

Everen Securities

lowered it to intermediate-term market performer from outperform, based on uncertainty and cross-currents affecting the information technology staffing and consulting services sectors.

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

popped up 1 3/8 to 36 1/16 after BT Alex. Brown upgraded it to buy from market perform.

Federal-Mogul

(FMO) - Get Report

sliced off 2 7/8, or 6.6%, to 40 5/8 after Merrill Lynch slashed it to accumulate from buy.

Franklin Resources

(BEN) - Get Report

lost 1 11/16, or 5%, to 32 1/16 after

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

cut it to neutral from outperform.

Gillette

(G) - Get Report

picked up 1 9/16 to 62 after

J.P. Morgan

lifted the stock to buy from long-term buy and increased its price target to 70 a share.

Onyx Software

(ONXS)

shot up 9 3/4, or 55.3%, to an all-time high of 27 13/16 after Credit Suisse First Boston initiated coverage with a buy.

Premier Parks

(PKS)

grew 1 9/16, or 5.1%, to 32 7/16 after

Goldman Sachs

began coverage of the stock by placing it on the firm's recommended list.

QuadraMed

(QMDC)

gave up 15/16, or 9.4%, to an annual low of 9 after Everen cut it to intermediate-term market performer from outperform.

Miscellany

Formula Systems

(FORTY) - Get Report

expanded 3, or 11.9%, to 28 3/8 after

Business Week's

Inside Wall Street column quoted a

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

analyst as saying the Israeli software development firm was worth nearly double its current trading price. Elsewhere in the column,

United Industrial

(UIC)

, which rose 1 7/16, or 14.7%, to 11 1/4, was said to be a possible takeover target "in the rapidly consolidating defense industry."

Jefferies

(JEF) - Get Report

advanced 3 1/8, or 8%, to 42 3/8 after receiving approval from the

Internal Revenue Service

for a tax-free spinoff of its

Investment Technology Group

(ITGI)

business. Investment Technology swelled 3 3/4, or 9.9%, to 43.

United Airlines

parent

UAL

(UAL) - Get Report

tacked on 2 1/16 to 67 1/16 on overall airline strength and a

Wall Street Journal

report saying the company is near a choice for a new CEO.