Sludge on Wall Street couldn't be avoided after the sun hit the weekend's snowfall.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average and the

Nasdaq Composite Index ended in a muddle but off session lows.

Last week, the market seemed to pay little attention to earnings news -- good or bad -- but today, investors gave earnings announcements a closer look and acted accordingly.

For instance,

Dell's

(DELL) - Get Report

earnings warning made it today's spoilsport. The stock was down 0.5% to $25.50. The stock sent its sector downward, with the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

, 2.8% lower.

Investors were out ready to reward and punish stand-out stocks.

The shining star today was biotech

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

, which was the winner of a patent infringement case against

Transkaryotic Therapies

(TKTX)

. Amgen was popping 12.4% to $67.50, and, egads, Transkaryotic was plunging 36.4% to $21.63 in recent trading.

The lately battered retail sector was getting a nice bounce today thanks to a positive note from

Goldman Sachs

, which upgraded several retailers and added a few to its U.S. recommended for purchase list. The list included mall-staple

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

, king of reinvention

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

and Old Economy retailer and major appliance-pusher

Sears

(S) - Get Report

. The aforementioned were all jumping lately.

The good news was also helping blue-chips

The Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

and

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

. Last week, Home Depot added pressure to the sector by

warning that it would miss estimates. The news pushed down Home Depot and Wal-Mart, so today they were recovering some of those losses.

Another to get a gold star was

Juno Online

(JWEB)

, which said its active subscriber base grew 8% to 4 million in December from 3.7 million in September. The Internet service provider was up 30.8% to $4.25.

Also in the Internet realm, newly merged

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

was lately the most active on the

New York Stock Exchange

after it got a nice upgrade from

J.P. Morgan H&Q

to buy from long-term buy. The stock was up 0.4% to $54.01.

Big caps were being disciplined today, thanks to Dell. Those suffering included

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

and blue-chip

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

.

Other Dow components getting hurt by Dell's news were

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

. H-P was lately down 4.4% to $34.19, while IBM was off 2.2% to $108.81.

Financial giant

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

posted fourth-quarter earnings in line with estimates, but Wall Street wanted more. Lately, the stock was 7.7% lower to $44.88.

It's probably been a long time since you've heard the words "initial public offering" not in conjunction with the words "unfavorable market conditions," so guess what? There are three diverse stocks making their debut on the Nasdaq and becoming the first IPOs of the year. They are:

Align Technology

(ALGN) - Get Report

, which makes a see-through, removable alternative to braces for teeth, coffee retailer

Peets Coffee & Tea

(PEET)

and

Xenogen

(XGEN)

, a biotech firm.

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Sector Watch

Amgen's

(AMGN) - Get Report

news was giving the

Nasdaq Biotechnology Index

a boost. In recent trading, the sector was jumping 4.9% to 1016.6.

The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

was driven up 0.6% to 2970.39 with help from trucking company

CNF

(CNF) - Get Report

and speedy delivery company

FedEx

(FDX) - Get Report

.

The

S&P Insurance Index

was hopping 2.4%. Component

Aflac

(AFL) - Get Report

(can you say that without squawking?) was lifted by upgrades to strong buy from

Banc of America Securities

and

Lehman Brothers

. Aflac was flying 5.3% higher to $59.75.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasuries are trading lower, though the market's weakness is much more so among longer maturing securities. Traders have been shifting investments toward shorter-term notes in the hope of a half-percentage point cut in interest rates. Analysts are also awaiting Chairman

Alan Greenspan's address to the

Senate Finance Committee

later this week in which he is very likely to hint of the

Federal Reserve's current strategy and elaborate on critical economic issues. Some more data released this morning confirms the slowdown in the economy.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down 13/32 to 103 29/32, raising its yield to 5.225%.

In economic news, the

index of leading economic indicators

(

definition |

chart |

source

) fell 0.6% in December, compared to a 0.4% decrease in November. Analysts attributed the continued drop to a rise in company layoffs, declining consumer confidence and reduced working hours in the manufacturing sector.

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