The bulls and bears were battling one another with gusto this morning as they weighed the benefits of bargain-hunting against the fear that corporate earnings -- particularly in tech -- have a lot lower to go. The blue-chip

Dow had lately settled well into the green. The tech-heavy

Nasdaq and the

S&P 500 also were ambling higher.

After a terrible year, the Nasdaq got off to a bad start on 2001 yesterday -- with its seventh-worst percentage drop ever. But the rest of the market hasn't been kicked around as much.

A smattering of defensive and technology stocks were performing well, with utilities, paper, PC makers and e-finance companies romping higher. PC makers were up despite negative analyst reports on PC-making giant

Dell

(DELL) - Get Dell Technologies Inc Class C Report

and some key semiconductormakers. Lehman cut its earnings outlook for 2001 on Dell to $1.00 from $1.10 and dropped its estimates and price target on semiconductor powerhouse

Intel

(INTC) - Get Intel Corporation (INTC) Report

citing terrible PC sales in December. Intel and Dell were lately rising, though.

Specialty chipmaker

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Altair Engineering Inc. Class A Report

was getting whacked and its peer

Xilinx

(XLNX) - Get Xilinx, Inc. (XLNX) Report

was rebounding after

Merrill Lynch

cut its estimates on both companies. Airline stocks were also tumbling after Merrill cut its mid-term rating on

Southwest Air

(LUV) - Get Southwest Airlines Co. Report

to accumulate from buy. Southwest was down 3.1% to $32.44.

Meanwhile, the bears think there's more drubbing to come -- that the Nasdaq will retest its Dec. 21, 2000, low of 2288 and that the

S&P 500 will dive below its previous low for the past year to 1250.

After all, the economy is still slowing, capital spending on information technology is still waning, consumers are still tightening their pocketbooks, credit is still dwindling, earnings warnings are still coming out and analysts are still lowering forecasts and ratings.

The Dow, on the other hand, is about halfway between last year's high and low, putting it in a much healthier, happier place.

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There was a smattering of earnings news out there this morning. Office retailer

Office Depot

(ODP) - Get ODP CORPORATION Report

and instant-messaging communications firm

Tumbleweed

(TMWD)

warned that they would miss earnings estimates. Office Depot was up, though, lately higher by 7.7% to $7.88; and Tumbleweed was 62.5% lower to $3.75.

Other things to watch today include a couple of retail sales indicators, President-elect

George W. Bush's

CEO summit and an announcement by OPEC about plans to cut oil production.

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Sector Watch

Tech sectors across the board were moving higher this morning, including semiconductors, PC makers and biotechs. Internet stocks like e-commerce firm

Digital River

(DRIV) - Get Global X Autonomous & Electric Vehicles ETF Report

were also rising; that stock was lately up 20.5% to $3.13.

The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was up 2.2% to 582.6. The index has been knocked into the dirt over the past several months as investors worried over slowing PC sales.

Energy and tobacco stocks, some of last year's best performers while the Nasdaq fell, were tumbling this morning. Tobacco giant

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Altria Group Inc Report

was moving lower after hitting a 52-week high yesterday. The company's shares were off 1.1% to $45.69.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasury prices were furiously giving back yesterday's

stellar gains this morning as investors put money back into rising equities. The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was lately down 13/32 at 105 28/32, yielding 4.973%.

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