An intermeeting interest rate cut by the Fed was all the talk again today.

Last Friday, the major indices got a nice pop in the last hour of trading after

Bear Stearns

economist and former Fed governor Wayne Angell said there was a 60% chance that the central bank could cut rates again before its March 20 meeting. Now, the latest news is he's saying there's an 80% chance.

Still, analysts and strategists had time to reflect over the weekend and today, they've been out giving reasons why they believe Fed Chairman

Alan Greenspan and his buddies will wait until their scheduled meeting to act.

Investors were clinging to the idea this morning, which raised optimism and brought bargain hunters out to help out some of the many stocks that were battered in last week's action. But that could be the reason for the rally anyway -- that stocks have been so badly beaten, they had no other place to go, but up.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average made steady gains this afternoon and ended a very nice rally. The tech-heavy

Nasdaq Composite Index has also been making steady gains this afternoon, after a volatile morning spent crossing and recrossing the flatline.

On the

New York Stock Exchange, mobile phone maker

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

staged a bit of a recovery. It and others in its industry were butchered last week in a slaughter that helped kill European markets. Today, Nokia was the darling of the Big Board and its European counterparts. Despite having its earnings estimates lowered by

Lehman Brothers

and

Merrill Lynch

, the stock was up 6.6% to $22.75.

Chip stocks didn't get any help from communications chipmaker

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

, which

slashed its first-quarter revenue estimates -- again -- this morning.

Lehman Brothers

analyst

Dan Niles lowered his forecasts on TI as well as

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

and

Cypress Semiconductor

(CY) - Get Report

, citing supply issues that he said likely won't bottom out until the third or fourth quarter. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was down 1.4%. Texas Instruments was off 3.3% and Micron was down 6%, but Cypress had lately turned up by 1.2%.

Software gargantuan

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

was up 4.9% to $59.50 while an appeals court hears oral arguments from the company in an effort to reverse the trial court's ruling that ordered the company be broken up because of a violation of antitrust laws.

Software companies

Ariba

(ARBA)

,

Veritas

(VRTS) - Get Report

,

i2 Technologies

(ITWO)

and

Siebel Systems

(SEBL)

were all being favored by investors today.

Optical storage equipment provider

Oak Technology

(OAKT)

hit a 52-week low after it made a downward revision to its third quarter, citing excess inventory and a slowdown in the U.S. economy. It was down 14.1% to $4.94.

In other Nasdaq news, reports say unusual trading in

Axcelis Technologies

(ACLS) - Get Report

prompted the Nasdaq to cancel some trades and open an investigation into why the semiconductor equipment maker was trading up so high. The stock was 12.6% higher to $11.75.

Meanwhile, the

blue-chip Dow was having a very good day despite

Procter & Gamble's

(PG) - Get Report

drag on the index. P&G was getting socked after the company revealed that its second half would be lower, impacted by the Turkish financial crisis. It was down 5.2% to $71.11, taking 26 points from the Dow.

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

made gains off news that competitor

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

was

raising its 2001 projections despite posting earnings that were in line with

lowered estimates. Home Depot was up 9.4% to $43.75. Lowe's was 7.9% higher to $58.91.

Home Depot, IBM,

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

and

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

were among the Dow's biggest contributors. The issues were adding a total of 71 points to the index.

Sector Watch

Oil service stocks were on the rise, with the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

up 3.3%. Oilfield services giant

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

was one of the sector's biggest upside contributors. Last week, the stock got an upgrade from Merrill Lynch to intermediate-term buy from accumulate. Merrill said that it was upgrading the stock because it sees "another year of strong outperformance for oil service stocks in 2001." The stock had gotten hit hard in the last month after it announced its $5.2 billion bid for IT company

Sema

(SEMA)

. It was lately up 7.7%.

Despite an almost across-the-board rally, investors were still seeking shelter in gold. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold and Silver Index

was rising 6.6% in recent action.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasury prices were up across the yield curve today, representing further expectations for more interest-rate cuts from the

Federal Reserve. There's very little news otherwise, as the market gears up for several pieces of important economic data due later this week.

In recent weeks Treasuries have been firming in response to weakness to stocks, as investors move their money from riskier assets like stocks to safer assets, like Treasury securities. Today, stocks are stronger, so that trade isn't in place today.

Lately, the 10-year Treasury note was up 3/32 to 99 18/32, yielding 5.056%.

Today's only economic release was the January

existing home sales data, which showed a 6.6% decrease on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. The pace of existing home sales fell to 4.65 million in January from a revised 4.98 million rate in December.

Tomorrow the market will get two important pieces of data, the January

durable goods orders and the

Consumer Confidence Index, published by the

Conference Board

. Thursday brings the release of the

National Association of Purchasing Management's

purchasing managers index for February.

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