The bottom question is back.

Some thought the

Nasdaq Composite Index had hit bottom following yesterday's first down open in a long time -- it dipped to 3382. But earnings warning season just won't quit. Another round of pre-announcements overnight rekindled insecurity. After flipping through the flatline several times in early trading, the Nasdaq had lately settled on a slide into the red.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was doing some of the same. After rallying through the Nasdaq's pain during the past week, the blue-chip index hopped between red and green at the open and then turned south.

The

S&P 500 was also falling, while

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was slipping under

priceline.com

(PCLN)

pressure again. The company, which warned of revenue weakness late last month, announced this morning that it would shut down operations of its Web-house gas and groceries licensee.

Last night's major earnings warning came from PC-maker

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

, which was feeling investors' ire. The Nasdaq's most actively traded stock this morning, Dell was lately off 8.2%. It was tugging the other PC-makers down with it.

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

were the culprits for the Dow's late malaise, stealing over 39 and 14 points from the index, respectively. H-P was lately off 7.0% and IBM was down 1.8%.

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

and

Compaq

(CPQ)

were also falling, off 4.5% and 8.7%.

Semiconductors were also getting whacked this morning, despite

blowout fiscal fourth-quarter earnings from chip-making bellwether

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

last night.

UBS Warburg

cut estimates and

ABN Amro

cut the price target on Micron this morning.

Analysts were happy with the fourth-quarter numbers but worried about chip prices

going forward. Micron was off 7.1%. Other semiconductor stocks

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

were also lower, off 0.3% and 3.8%.

On the

New York Stock Exchange

, networking company

Lucent

(LU)

was the most active after it won a $1 billion contract with telecom

SBC Communications

(SBC)

. Lucent was up 1.1%, while SBC was 3.0% higher.

Pitney Bowes

(PBI) - Get Report

and retailer

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

were slipping after issuing earnings warnings. Pitney was off 31.8% and J.C. Penney was down 8.4%.

TheStreet.com

has been tracking many of the warnings in a

separate chart.

The first

Dow Jones Industrial Average component to issue a report this season, Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

this morning reported earnings in line with expectations. The world's largest aluminum manufacturer, Alcoa was down 3.2% after jumping 11.2% through Wednesday this week.

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Sector Watch

Airline stocks were rising for a third day in a row, boosting the

American Stock Exchange Airline Index

2.6% and the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

0.9%.

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

was flat at $45.06

Paper shares were shedding recent strength, weighing on the

Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index

, which was off 1.3%, and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Forest & Paper Products Index

, which was down 2.4%. Shared components

Georgia-Pacific

(GP)

and

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

were both down.

The energy sector, which has been falling all week, continued down after oil prices fell overnight. The

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

was off 1.3%, the

Chicago Board Options Exchange Oil Index

was down 1.3%, and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

was 1.9% lower.

Dell's warning was slaughtering the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

, which was off 5.4%. Chip worries were likewise slamming the semiconductors: The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

had fallen 3.8%.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasuries are little changed on not much news ahead of tomorrow's release of the September

employment report, the most important economic report to roll around each month.

There are no major economic reports today, although at 2 p.m. EDT the

Federal Open Market Committee will release the minutes of its Aug. 22 meeting.

At its most recent meeting on Tuesday, the FOMC

cited the still-high level of labor-force utilization -- aka low unemployment rates -- as its main reason for maintaining its aggressive posture on interest rates.

The employment report will provide the latest readings on unemployment, with possible implications for monetary policy. In August, the regular unemployment rate stood at 4.1% and the

augmented unemployment rate -- the measure preferred by the

Fed -- stood at 6.9%.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was up 2/32 to 98 31/32 and yielding 5.888%.

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