Market Update: Nasdaq Goes Green; Dow Up Over 100 Points

<LI>GM counters weakness on Dow from Exxon, J.P. Morgan.</LI><LI>Semis mixed after analyst calls on communications chipmakers.</LI><LI>Microsoft is down, Intel is up.</LI>
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After drop-kicking the

Nasdaq to new lows yesterday, investors decided to go in for some more. But the selling was slow and moderate.

The Nasdaq, lately up slightly, had meandered into the red after hovering around the flatline indecisively at the open. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was plodding ahead into the green. And the

S&P 500 was above break-even.

These days, it seems the only certainty is that markets will be mixed and volatile. Anxiety abounds over a slowing economy, slowing corporate earnings and the still-unresolved presidential election. Some market-watchers think the only thing that will turn this battered market around is some sign that the

Federal Reserve might cut interest rates in the coming months. And today's preliminary

gross domestic product

figures are unlikely to be convincing enough. The Fed cuts rates when it needs to re-ignite economic growth.

GDP came in just above forecasts at a 2.4% rise, but it still showed that the U.S. economy -- for the third quarter -- grew at its slowest pace in four years.

The Dow got a bit of lift from

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and decent breadth were countering weakness in

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

, which was downgraded by

ABN Amro

to add from buy.

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

was the other culprit, gobbling about 9 points from the index.

The downtrodden semiconductor stocks, once the heroes of the tech sector, were mixed following a couple of analyst calls on communications chipmakers.

Morgan Stanley

upgraded communications chipmaker

Broadcom

(BRCM)

and

Merrill Lynch

analyst

Joseph Osha

issued a cautious report on the group, in particular Broadcom,

Vitesse Semiconductor

(VTSS)

,

Applied Micro Circuits

(AMCC)

,

Transwitch

(TXCC)

and

PMC Sierra

(PMCS)

.

The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

is now trading where it was 13 months ago, before tech hype gripped this market, and was lately up 1.7%.

Osha's said he still believed that order growth rates for the first quarter of next year would mark the first sign of trouble for those communications chipmakers, but that the weakness wouldn't apply to other semiconductor companies. He called an argument for a sustained downturn "questionable." Merrill's report also said that December earnings are not at risk.

Of the group, only Broadcom and Applied Micro Circuits were higher, up 8.6% and 3.3%.

Big-cap tech names continued to slip lower, with software mega-company

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

off 0.5%; semiconductor making behemoth

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

had been negative but lately was up 2.5%.

Gateway

(GTW)

was dragging in the mud on lowered sales estimates from

Merrill Lynch

. Merrill dropped its fourth-quarter sales growth estimates to 24% growth, or $3.04 billion, from 28% growth, or $3.135 billion, but kept its 63 cent EPS estimate intact. Gateway was losing 7.6%.

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Sector Watch

The

Nasdaq Biotechnology Index

was back in the green after falling 5.7% yesterday. Some pundits are convinced the biotechs are ready for a bit of a rally.

ING Barings

this morning initiated coverage of six therapeutic biotechnology companies with buy or strong buy ratings. Some of yesterday's weak links were also rising today, including

Cephalon

(CEPH)

, up 3.8% and

Vertex

(VRTX) - Get Report

, up 2.2%.

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Bonds/Economy

Bond prices inched up this morning ahead of the third-quarter GDP report. But lately, the benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was up only slightly, higher by 1/32 to 101 7/32, yielding 5.586%.

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