After taking a rest Wednesday, tech bulls were struggling to maintain another rally this morning. The

Nasdaq bucked higher in early trading, pulled back a bit and was lately gathering speed once again. Early strength on the

Dow faded even more quickly, as investors pulled cash from defensive names and industrials in favor of tech bellwethers and financials. It was lately hopping around the flatline.

Of course, 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 between beaten-down tech sectors -- computer-makers, semiconductors, opticals and networking stocks -- and defensive areas such as paper, health care, utility and food stocks.

It seems investors are finding value in at least a few beaten-down tech and financial titans. 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 33 points of upside to the index.

Citibank

(C) - Get Report

was also contributing to the rise, with a 9-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 actives 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.

Oh, and then all of sudden there was

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

. The software company was getting slammed on rumors it was going to warn about earnings, that its CFO is going to resign and that it's going to buy

Red Hat

(RHAT)

. Oracle shares were lately trading off 9% in thick volume.

Some of the early gainers were just barely hanging on to the upside in recent action, including tech bellwethers

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

and

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

. Their stocks were lately barely trotting ahead, up by just 1.2% and 0.5%, respectively.

But

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

America Online

(AOL)

and

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

, among others, were still galloping higher, up 5.8%, 4.1%, 3% and 2.3%, respectively.

Meanwhile, investors are snatching up shares in wireless communications giant

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings, reported today. The stock was lately up 3.2%.

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. Gap was rising 9.5%, while the

S&P Retail Index

was falling 0.2% to 802.4.

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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 2.4%, the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

and the

Chicago Board Options Exchange Oil Index

were both slipping 2.3%

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

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

was slipping 0.9%, and

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

was 0.9% lower. Paper giant and Dow component

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

had fallen 4.3%.

Internet bellwethers continued to rally today despite PSINet's nasty news this morning, and

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

Index was trading 4.1% higher.

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Bonds/Economy

Bonds were mixed by midday on the higher-than-expected unit labor costs number this morning.

Productivity

(

definition |

chart |

source

) for the third quarter rose 3.8%, ahead of forecasts of a 3.1% gain, but well down from the prior quarter's 6.1% increase -- a very good thing. But unit labor costs rose 2.5% versus forecasts of a 1.5% gain and the previous quarter's 0.2% fall.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was at 100 2/32, down 2/32, to yield 5.742%.

The 30-year

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

Initial jobless claims

(

definition |

chart |

source

) also came out this morning. The number was unchanged versus the previous week at 308,000, but above the forecast 305,000.

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