Market Basks in Friday's Glow and Shines on the Upside

Equity traders were cheered by Friday's bond rally, but some are worried about the weak advance/decline line.
Author:
Publish date:

Picking up where the bond market left off

Friday, stocks were surging this midday, with rampaging tech and Internet names leading the way.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

lately was up 140 to 9973 after trading as high as 9980.14. The

S&P 500

was higher by 19 to 1313 and the

Russell 2000

was up 3 to 401.

Most impressively, the

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 49 to 2542 and on track to eclipse its all-time best of 2510.09, set

Feb. 1.

Tech heavyweights such as

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

were up in unison this morning. The

Nasdaq 100

lately was up 2.2%.

Additionally,

SkyTel Communications

(SKYT)

was up 24.5% after

Business Week

reported

MCI WorldCom

(WCOM)

could acquire the wireless messaging company. WorldCom was up 2%.

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, tech bellwethers such as

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

,

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

,

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

and

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

were higher as well. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was up 2.2% while the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

was higher by 3%.

The aforementioned (among others) are up, in part, because falling bond yields make their expansive price-to-earnings multiples less expansive. The bond market rallied sharply Friday -- whilst stocks were shuttered for Good Friday -- after the employment report proved weaker than expected.

Internet names, they of the most egregious valuation of all (especially considering many have no "e" to calculate P/Es), were also benefiting from the bond market's advance, as well as momentum carried over from last week.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 18 to 674 while

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

was higher by 5 to 121.

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

was up 13.9% after announcing plans to extend its portal services beyond PCs to hand-held devices and TV-based applications such as WebTV.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

was up 4.7% after settling a lawsuit with

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

without either party paying damages.

Also,

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

and

E*Trade

(EGRP)

were up 23% and 11.8%, respectively, after

Credit Suisse First Boston

Internet analyst Bill Burnham issued a favorable report on the online brokerage industry. Buoyed by the same report,

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

was up 5.8%.

The

American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

was up 4.2%.

Additionally, the juggernaut known as

America Online

(AOL)

was up a further 3.8% and was again the most actively traded stock on the Big Board.

"I knew when I read the papers on Saturday -- with the data from Friday -- we'd be in good shape, but I didn't think to this extent," said Jay Meagrow, institutional trader at

McDonald

in Cleveland. "I'm liking it because one thing that's been missing, the utilities, are getting involved."

The

Dow Jones Utility Average

was up 2 to 297.

"I'd like to see a whole week of this," Meagrow continued. "Earnings start coming in next week and if this market hangs in and ends up a couple hundred

Dow points, that'd be a decent sign. The story is going to be the earnings. Another big thing is how computer companies explain away demand and pricing concerns."

Meagrow said "biggies" such as

Compaq

(CPQ)

had lagged of late due to those concerns. "If anyone gets those guys going we'll be much higher than high," he said.

The trader's lone concern this morning was the lack of volume, although he noted "we had real bad volume all week last week."

In NYSE trading, advancers were leading declining stocks 1,546 to 1,259 on 366 million shares. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity, losers were leading 1,850 to 1,840 on 527 million shares. New 52-week lows were leading new highs by 54 to 45 on the Big Board and by 114 to 102 on the Nasdaq.

Doubter Persists but Wavers

"The big-caps continue to do just fine and lead the market," but action this morning "doesn't change what's happening with the advance/decline," said Gary Kaltbaum, chief technical analyst at

J.W. Genesis Securities

in Boca Raton, Fla. "I took out a chart on the

Nasdaq advance/decline and it hit another yearly low this morning, believe it or not."

In conversations with

TheStreet.com

of late, most recently

March 24, Kaltbaum has observed the "divergence" in the performance of the average stock vs. the big-cap favorites and worried about its implications.

"Every time you've had divergences like this, the market always ends up correcting," he reiterated today.

But "as long as the high-relative-strength stocks like Microsoft and AOL continue to

outperform, you don't argue," the technician conceded. "The fact the market's held up even with so many stocks going down is a good sign. If interest rates start coming lower, it can only help."

The price of the 30-year Treasury bond was recently off 4/32 to 94 27/32, its yield ticking up to 5.61%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early

Bond Focus.)

Monday's Midday Movers

By Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

As note above, online brokerages were flying on word from Credit Suisse First Boston that online trading volume rose 30% to 35% to about 450,000 trades a day during the first quarter. The firm also said E*Trade, climbing 7 3/16, or 11.8%, to 68 1/4, and Ameritrade, climbing 14 3/8, or 23%, to 77, might beat earnings targets. Charles Schwab was hopping 5 1/2, or 5.8%, to 99 3/4.

Elsewhere in Netland, Yahoo! was jumping 25, or 13.9%, to 204 15/16 after reaching a deal by which its content and services will be optimized and delivered to personal digital assistants and Internet appliances through

Online Anywhere's

Author Once, View Anywhere service. Still elsewhere, online bank

Net.B@nk

(NTBK)

was up 17, or 22.5%, to 92 1/2 after saying it opened a record 8,000 new accounts during the first quarter.

Finally, Amazon.com was up 8 1/16 to 179 on news it and Wal-Mart agreed to settle all claims and counter claims related to Amazon.com and

drugstore.com's

hiring practices. In October, Wal-Mart filed suit against Amazon.com, drugstore.com,

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

and former Wal-Mart executive Richard Dalzell, alleging Kleiner Perkins improperly recruited Wal-Mart employees. Wal-Mart was up 2 7/16 to 95 11/16.

In other news:

The Wall Street Journal's

Heard on the Street column said

Gartner Group's

(IT) - Get Report

plan to spin off most of the 47% of Gartner stock owned by

IMS Health

(RX)

has upset some Gartner shareholders. Some non-IMS shareholders argue that the plan benefits only IMS while hurting other investors by costing them their majority vote in electing Gartner's board, the column reported. Gartner was down 11/16 to 22 1/8; IMS Health was down 2, or 6.2%, to 30 1/2.

General Instrument

(GIC)

was up 1 15/16, or 6.2%, to 33 3/8after saying it will repurchase 5.3 million shares of its stock owned by two partnerships affiliated with

Forstmann Little

for $148.4 million. In a separate transaction,

Liberty Media

(LMGA)

agreed to purchase 10 million General Instrument shares from the Forstmann Little partnerships for $280 million. Also, General Instrument said it expects Forstmann Little to sell additional General Instruments shares in a block transaction that will reduce its ownership interest in the company to about 1%. Liberty Media, a unit of

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

, was up 1 13/16 to 56 9/16. AT&T was up 3/4 to 79 1/4.

Separately,

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

was up 3 3/16, or 10.4%, to 33 3/4 on word Liberty Media plans to boost its stake in the company.

Hanger Orthopedic Group

(HGR)

was up 1 7/8, or 14.4%, to 14 7/8 after agreeing to buy the orthotics and prosthetics division of

NovaCare

(NOV) - Get Report

in a deal valued at $455 million. NovaCare was up 1/2, or 42.1%, to 1 11/16.

Rental Service

(RSV)

was up 4 3/8, or 25.4%, to 21 5/8 after

United Rentals

(URI) - Get Report

launched an unsolicited $22.75-a-share cash tender offer for all the company's outstanding shares. United Rentals was flat at 28 3/4.

SkyTel Communications was up 3 11/16, or 24.5%, to 18 13/16 after

Business Week

reported that MCI WorldCom is considering taking over the wireless messaging company. MCI WorldCom was up 1 15/16 to 91 3/16.

Earnings/revenue movers

Aspen Technologies

(AZPN) - Get Report

was down 2 5/8, or 20%, to 10 5/8 after saying it expects to post a "significant" operating loss in the third quarter. The five-analyst estimate called for earnings of 18 cents a share.

Axent Technologies

(AXNT)

was down 10 15/16, or 54.9%, to 9 1/16 after saying it expects to post a first-quarter loss of 5 cents to 10 cents a share before nonrecurring charges associated with the acquisitions of

Internet Tools

and

PassGo

. The 14-analyst consensus called for earnings of 18 cents vs. the year-ago 12 cents.

Eagle USA Airfreight

(EUSA) - Get Report

was up 2, or 6.2%, to 34 5/8 after saying it expects to post earnings of 27 cents to 29 cents a share in the second quarter, which would be above the current eight-analyst view of 24 cents.