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Market Update: Oracle Swings Nasdaq Into Heavens, Dow Stumbles

<LI>Procter & Gamble holding Dow back.</LI><LI>McDonald's latest to cite euro woes.</LI>

Tech stocks were sailing into the bright blue (or green) yonder this morning following an upgrade on software top dog

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

by

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

, and the

Nasdaq Composite Index was lately up 69 to 3963.

Old economy stocks were struggling to keep their head up, however, despite benign

Producer Price Index,

retail sales and initial jobless claims numbers and a slight recovery in the euro. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was lately down 24 to 11,157.

Early this morning, Morgan Stanley's Chuck Phillips upgraded Oracle to a strong buy from outperform. The upgrade comes at a good time for Oracle, which kicks off this quarter's earnings season after today's close. Investors were already feeling optimistic about the report, according to

WhisperNumber.com

, which said Wall Street expects Oracle to beat analyst consensus estimates of 13 cents per share by a penny. Oracle was trading up 3.5% to $84.56.

Other favorites with tech investors so far this morning include

Conexant

(CNXT) - Get Report

, which announced last night that it plans to spin off its Internet business. The company was lately up 32% to $48.94. Conexant and Oracle were among the most actively traded stocks on the Nasdaq this morning.

Meanwhile,

Chase Manhattan Bank

(CMB)

was just barely recovering from a weeklong plummet this morning after some analysts made positive comments on the stock. Chase has fallen precipitously this week as merger rumors gathered in the sector and its plans to acquire U.S. brokerage powerhouse

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

were confirmed yesterday. Chase was lately one of the three most-active stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

was helping to hold the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

back as it swooned in sympathy with consumer product bellwether

Colgate-Palmolive

(CL) - Get Report

. Colgate-Palmolive got whacked by a downgrade this morning from

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

, which lowered the company to market perform from buy on expectations that euro weakness would hurt the company's third-quarter earnings. Procter & Gamble, down 3%, was slashing some 11 points from the Dow. Colgate was off 12.9% to $48.88.

A slew of companies have warned recently that weakness in the euro could take a bite out of earnings; the latest is big-Mac food chain

McDonald's

(MCD) - Get Report

TST Recommends

. The company told analysts last night that the sliding euro could slash its year 2000 earnings by up to 7 cents. The stock was tumbling in extended-hours trading.

Banc of America

downgraded McDonald's to a market perform from buy this morning. McDonald's was lately flat at $27.19.

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

also fell prey to the euro after

Goldman Sachs

cut its earnings estimates Monday, citing weakness in the European currency, while

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

was battered by a similar concerns last week.

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Bonds/Economy

Today's economic reports were uniformly tame. August retail sales were more or less in line with expectations, while the August PPI rose less than expected.

Retail sales rose 0.2% compared to an average forecast of a 0.3% gain. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.3%, in line with expectations. However, July's results were revised upward, making the August results appear somewhat weaker than they actually are.

Meanwhile, the PPI fell 0.2% vs. an average forecast that it would rise by that amount. The core PPI, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 0.1%, a tenth less than expected. The August PPI does not capture the more recent rise in oil prices, which is expected to show up in the September report. Energy prices fell 0.2% in the August PPI, while food prices fell 0.7%, their largest drop in at least a year.

Also today, initial jobless claims rose to 324,000, their highest level since January 1999, from 311,000 the previous week, indicating continued slackening in the labor market and possibly a slowing rate of job growth.

The 10-year Treasury note was lately up 3/32 to 100 5/32, and yielding 5.730%.

Bond prices rallied nicely yesterday, thanks to another decline in oil prices and growing optimism about the monetary policy outlook.

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Sector Watch

Box-makers were rebounding this morning, and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

was up 1.1% after losing 0.9%. Box-makers were under pressure yesterday after

SCI Systems

(SCIS)

cut its fiscal first-quarter profit forecast, citing weakness in consumer electronics and dead PC-demand.

PC-makers

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

,

Compaq

(CPQ)

and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

were rebounding this morning, lately up 1.3%, 3.4% and 2.8%.

Semiconductors were soaring, with the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

up 2.6%.