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Market Update: Dow Posts Strong Gain; Comp Ends Mired in the Slush

<LI>Chips get crunched.</LI> <LI>Few tech sectors immune.</LI> <LI>Energy powers higher.</LI>

Updated from 2:26 p.m. EST.

Time to dust off an ancient, yet fitting descriptor of today's market action. The word is "bifurcation," a noun that expresses a split or division. That split was pretty apparent today, as all things tech suffered, while the broader market was largely higher.

Back in the halcyon days of Nasdaq 5000, bifurcation was all the rage, with the risky growth in tech making an upside move at the expense of old-economy stocks and defensive plays. But, according to analysts and industry watchers alike, spending in information technology has slowed, curbing the growth prospects for a wide variety of businesses.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was lately powering higher, while the

Nasdaq Composite Index was sinking. Action has looked like that for most of the day, as traders reacted badly to a spate of negative news about semiconductors and tough words from Wall Street analysts.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

was a drag on the Dow and one of the leaders of the Nasdaq selloff. A report from the

Semiconductor Industry Association

showed that growth levels were actually leveling off and that sales had slipped from the previous quarter. That is not good, considering many chip companies need to get rid of already high inventory levels, which are only exacerbated by sliding demand. Essentially, warehouses are piling up with stuff that companies can't sell.

Analysts reacted to the report and bashed the industry.

Credit Suisse First Boston

said that inventory levels had not improved and probably wouldn't until the end of the second quarter.

Lehman Brothers

said that this year would pale in comparison to last year, at least in the first half.

Bear Stearns

told investors that growth would bottom out in the second quarter, with few near-term catalysts in sight, leaving visibility hazy until March at the earliest. "Until inventory levels are brought down and the macroeconomic situation becomes more clear, we would focus on companies that are near trough or baseline valuations," the Bear wrote.

In other words, the immediate picture looks real bad, the future cannot be predicted and investors should by the stocks with the most attractive valuations. The Bear said it liked

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

, Intel,

Lattice Semiconductor

(LSCC) - Get Report

,

LSI Logic

(LSI) - Get Report

and

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

-- but that was nothing more than wishful thinking, since all five companies were much, much lower. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

lately dropped 4.6%, kicking off a tech selloff.

Some of the biggest names in technology got caught in the crossfire, with the

Morgan Stanley High-Technology 35 Index

dropping 1.3%.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

, which reports earnings after tomorrow's bell, slid 2.5%.

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

, which began day one of its three-day analyst meeting, dropped 4.9%.

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

,

Palm

(PALM)

,

Broadcom

and

Commerce One

(CMRC)

TST Recommends

all sat with large losses.

And so, money poured out of tech and into other areas -- especially petroleum-based stocks, which have tracked higher as the price of crude and natural gas have jumped in recent sessions. Crude futures on the

New York Mercantile Exchange

, despite slipping today, were still above $30 a barrel. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

rose 3.1%, while the

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

rose 1.9%. The bigger, broader oil companies that do not focus on providing services or selling natural gas, were posting more moderate gains.

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

, one such company and a blue-chip to boot, gained 2.5%.

Like ExxonMobil, 19 of the 30 blue-chips were in the green, overwhelming positivity that offset the healthy Intel loss and stumble in

SBC Communications

(SBC)

.

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

,

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

were some of the best performing stocks.

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Sector Watch

What does HMO stand for? Who cares, man? The

Morgan Stanley/American Stock Exchange HMO Index

was up 2.4%.

That said, just look at all that bloodletting in technology. It looks like a pagan paean to evil, with dot-coms, networkers, peripherals and wireless slaughtered by an uncertain future.

The

American Stock Exchange Networking Index

fell 1.3%, while the

TheStreet.com Internet Sector Index

dropped 1.4%, despite

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

gaining 7.1%,

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

gaining 3.9% and

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

gaining 1.3%.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasury prices for notes are trading within a narrow range, while the long bond is about half a point higher. Although the

Treasury

will sell $10 billion to $11 billion each of the 4.75- and 10-year notes and the 30-year bond this week, the 30-year is gathering premium value because of its near-certain removal later this year.

Traders usually go into a selling pattern just before a government Treasury auction to drive down the price of the new notes to be issued. Yields for the notes are up marginally, while those at the longer end are down by about 3 basis points.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down 01/32 to 104 11/32, yielding 5.165%.

In economic news, the

Purchasing Managers' Non-Manufacturing Index

(

definition |

source

) fell to 50.1 in January from its revised value of 60.1 in December. Readings above 50 denote expansion, so the index is only just barely positive. New orders and order backlogs decreased, and export and employment growth slowed. Meanwhile, imports were unchanged. This data is in line with that of the manufacturing index, which came out last week and indicated a sharp dip into recession territory.

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