After taking a rest Wednesday, the bulls were in the mood for another rodeo, and the major indices bucked higher at the open. But the

Dow was barely above the flatline at midmorning, though the

Nasdaq was still ahead.

The Nasdaq Composite Index finished yesterday's session off 36.2 to 3333.39, after a 5.6% gain Tuesday. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 71.7 to 10899.5 after racking up a 996-point rise over a 13-day period.

But it's hard to stick to, or even detect, a single investing trend for very long these days. As investors attempt to decipher which stocks at current levels are good values, they have been rotating in and out of beaten-down tech sectors -- computer-makers, semiconductors, opticals and networking stocks -- and defensive areas such as paper, health care and food stocks.

It seems investors have been able to find value in a few beaten-down tech and financial titans, however. Semiconductor-maker

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

, computer giant

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and brokerage

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, all of which have been ramping up since mid to late October, were rising again this morning. They were taking the Dow with them -- together adding 42 points of upside to the index. Computer bellwether

Hewlett-Packard

was also contributing to the rise, with a 12 point contribution.

Intel was also helping to lift the Nasdaq after its conference call with analysts last night went relatively well. It was one of the index's most actively traded stocks. The other two most active were pressuring the Nasdaq to the downside:

WorldCom

(WCOM)

-- partly responsible for yesterday's slide after warning on fourth-quarter earnings -- and

PSINet

(PSIX)

-- which warned this morning on fourth-quarter earnings and said it is exploring strategic options.

Other gainers this morning included tech bellwethers in the PC-making, semiconductor and Internet sectors:

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

America Online

(AOL)

and

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

, among others.

Meanwhile, investors today will want to watch wireless communications giant

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

, which dials in its fourth-quarter results today.

And despite a second earnings warning last night, U.S. retailer

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

was also higher. Hey, maybe those new leather jackets in stores aren't so bad. But the rest of the sector wasn't looking too hot. The

S&P Retail Index

was falling 0.8% to 796.8.

Back to top

Sector Watch

Energy stocks were tumbling this morning as oil prices eased back on news of a truce between Israel and Palestine. The

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

was slipping 1.9%, the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

was slipping 2.3% and the

Chicago Board Options Exchange Oil Index

was falling 2.3%.

Defensives such as drug stocks and paper stocks were back out of favor today. Drug titan

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

was slipping 0.97%, and

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

was 1% lower. Paper giant and Dow component

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

had slipped 2.1%.

Back to top

Bonds/Economy

Bonds opened little changed, with no new factors to spur activity.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was at 100 2/32, down 1/32, to yield 5.749%.

The 30-year

Treasury bondwas at 106 20/32, 3/32 higher, to yield 5.781%.

Initial jobless claims

(

definition |

chart |

source

) for the latest week were unchanged at 308,000.

Productivity

(

definition |

chart |

source

) for the third quarter rose 3.8%, ahead of forecast of a 3.1% gain, but well down from the prior quarter's 6.1% increase. Unit labor costs rose 2.5%, after a 0.2% fall in the prior period.

Back to top