Looks like the

Nasdaq Composite Index, at least, got a nice kick in the pants this morning, but the

Dow Jones Industrial Average was stuck in double-digit red at midmorning.

The indices both had been stuck in the downside after a series of negative notes this morning and not a bit of solid good news. But the Dow was lately off its lows, and the Nasdaq was climbing steadily.

CIBC World Markets

downgraded several networking-equipment companies this morning, including market behemoth

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Report

, which it dropped to a hold rating from a buy. It also dropped

Juniper Networks

(JNPR) - Get Report

to a buy rating from a strong buy and cut

Redback Networks

(RBAK)

to a hold from a buy. But Redback pulled off an upgrade to strong buy from buy at

Robertson Stephens

. Look for these actions to get investors focused on the networking sector today. In recent trading, Cisco was losing 4% to $35.63, Juniper was up 0.6% to $118 and Redback was jumping 15.2% to $40.81.

CIBC was busy this morning. The firm upgraded battered

Lucent

(LU)

to a buy from hold. It was helping the stock a little; it was lately up 0.7% to $16.94.

Also,

Credit Suisse First Boston

pushed its way into the spotlight, saying it sees additional risk in

Intel's

(INTC) - Get Report

upcoming earnings because of a pricing war between it and

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

. The firm said in the note that it expects pricing pressure -- due to weak demand and inventory excess -- to continue between the two companies through Labor Day. "Consequently, we would remain on the sidelines for PC component stocks at least until March," the note said. Both stocks were lately down.

St. Louis-based

Trans World Airlines

(TWA)

has already had a busy morning. First, it headed to bankruptcy court to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and then it formalized its agreement to be bought by

American Airlines

-- the offspring of

AMR

(AMR)

-- for a reported $500 million. American would

inherit a hub in St. Louis, about 20,000 employees, a number of desirable air routes and landing gates, 190 aircraft and about $3 billion in aircraft leases. Topping TWA's action this morning was a halt on trading on the

Amex. The stock was at $1.32 when trading stopped.

American hasn't stopped, though. The airline also agreed to buy some assets off

UAL's

(UAL) - Get Report

United Airlines for about $1.2 billion in cash and $300 million in lease agreements. The move will help UAL with any regulatory problems it might have in its $4.3 billion merger with

US Airways

(U) - Get Report

. And American is expected to announce its $82 million purchase of a 49% stake in

DC Air

. AMR was off 0.8% to $38.63. UAL was up 1.8% to $42.75, while US Airways was up 5.4% to $45.

In other merger news, the

America Online

(AOL)

and

Time Warner

(TWX)

deal could finally be closing. Heard that before? Both stocks were lately rising.

Actually, it's been reported that the merger of the Internet and media giants could be finalized as early as today after two of the five members of the

Federal Communications Commission

agreed to approve the $94 billion deal, which was announced a year ago. A go-ahead from the FCC is the final regulatory approval needed.

Partisan politics playing a part, perhaps? The three Democrats in the group have yet to put in their votes. At issue is AOL's dominance in instant messaging -- you know, the addiction that has taken over most teenagers' lives. Anyway, one of the Dems wants tougher restrictions to ensure that the communications behemoth couldn't get around making its instant-messaging services available to rivals. The other two are expected to vote for approval without further restrictions. Another issue that has held up the merger for so long concerns access to the combined companies' high-speed cable system.

There are two Republicans on the commission; one is Michael Powell, the son of retired Gen. Colin Powell. The elder Powell, President-elect George W.'s nominee for secretary of state, is on AOL's board. Powell the younger is considered front-runner to be the next FCC chairman, according to sources for

The Washington Post

.

Meanwhile, yesterday's less-than-stellar sales numbers from mobile-phone maker

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

caused the stock to tumble 8.8% in Tuesday's action. Today, the stock was off 2.2% to $38.38.

The news most definitely affected Nokia rival

Motorola

(MOT)

, which is to report earnings after the closing bell today. The stock was lately off xx%, after falling 5% yesterday. Also announcing after the bell is Internet portal

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

, which got a slap in the face yesterday from

ABN Amro

. The firm downgraded the stock to hold from add, saying the "current valuation still does not reflect the greatly diminished prospects for revenue and EPS growth in 2001." It said it expects at least another 20% of downside for the stock. It was 4.98% lower to $28.63.

Yahoo! is a bellwether for so many dot-com stocks, so all eyes will be on its report and what it says about upcoming prospects for the health of Internet companies. This earnings season is critical because of the spate of warnings already issued by companies. As the pace of economic growth has slowed, company after company has warned. Now that fourth-quarter earnings season is about to kick into high gear, investors will find out how the final quarter of the year actually turned out and what companies have to say about the outlook for 2001.

So it's little surprise that trading has lately been lackluster. It seems investors are on the sidelines, waiting to see what else is in store from the

Federal Reserve or any other economic news that can give insight into the current state of the nation's fiscal health. What could be a catalyst are two pieces of economic information coming out Friday -- December's

Producer Price Index and the latest reading on

consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan. The PPI measures the change in prices received by domestic producers of commodities in all stages of processing -- crude materials, intermediate materials, and finished goods.

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Sector Watch

There was a mixed bag of winners today.

Financials were making healthy gains, after being battered recently. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was up 2.1%, while

TheStreet.com E-Finance Index

rose 5.4%.

Also, tech stocks were bouncing a bit with the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

up 0.6%, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

was 1% higher, while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was hopping 1.5%.

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Bonds/Economy

Not much on the economic news front today, but tomorrow we have the

Initial Jobless Claims report to look forward to. The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down 15/32 to 105 7/32, raising its yield to 5.056%.

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