midday07-30-99

Author:
Publish date:

TheStreet.com's MIDDAY UPDATE

July 30, 1999

http://www.thestreet.com

Sponsored by Investorplace.com

NASDAQ swings widely. Buy or sell? FREE REPORT from tech expert Michael Murphy gives you the answer-plus reveals the five tech stocks every investor must own:

http://www.ppi-orders.com/index.htm?promo_code=21T180

Market Data as of 7/30/99, 1:28 PM ET:

o Dow Jones Industrial Average: 10,666.54 down 124.75, -1.16%

o Nasdaq Composite Index: 2,632.59 down 7.42, -0.28%

o S&P 500: 1,330.22 down 10.81, -0.81%

o TSC Internet: 548.46 down 13.98, -2.49%

o Russell 2000: 441.76 up 0.18, 0.04%

o 30-Year Treasury: 88 04/32 down 21/32, yield 6.119%

In Today's Bulletin:

o Midday Musings: Morning Strength Yields to a Mixed Midday as Dow Falters
o Herb on TheStreet: Update: Why C3 Can't Help but Continue to Sparkle for Cree Research

Get the word on Internet stocks this weekend, as Merrill Lynch Internet analyst Henry Blodget appears on "TheStreet.com" on the Fox News Channel. The show airs Saturday 10 a.m. ET and again on Sunday 1 p.m. ET. For more info and how to find Fox News in your area, please see our TSC on Fox page, at

http://www.thestreet.com/tv

Also on TheStreet.com:

Software: Software Notebook: Ellison Still Lugging Network-Computer Torch

Also, a few analysts offer (belated) words in support of Baan.

http://www.thestreet.com/tech/software/769496.html

SiliconStreet.com: Score One for the Valley's Number-Crunchers

A favored accounting tactic that lets companies write off R&D expenses isn't disappearing anytime soon.

http://www.thestreet.com/comment/siliconstreet/769474.html

Market Features: Smoking or Slowing? Tell Us About Your Local Job Market

The Philly Fed sees modest wage pressures in its region; a Pennsylvania

TSC

reader sees heavy ones. What's the story in your neck of the woods?

http://www.thestreet.com/markets/marketfeatures/769480.html

Wrong! Rear Echelon Revelations: Our Deepest Condolences

Thursday's Atlanta shooting was a terribly sad event. My condolences to the victims and their families.

http://www.thestreet.com/comment/wrongrear/769631.html

Fixed-Income Forum: What Makes a Bond Cheapest to Deliver Against the Futures Contract?

The 'CTD' bond is the one with the lowest price relative to the price the futures seller can charge the buyer for it.

http://www.thestreet.com/funds/bondforum/769619.html

Midday Musings: Morning Strength Yields to a Mixed Midday as Dow Falters

By

Eileen Kinsella

Staff Reporter

After yesterday's selloff, a ho-hum morning didn't seem like such a bad thing.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

gave up modest, early gains and has skidded harshly in the last hour, while other major indices were mixed with stocks trading in a narrow range. The general mood at midday was one of low expectation, or

No Expectation

, as the

Rolling Stones

would sing.

The market is "absorbing yesterday's shock very well," said Jim Maguire, managing director at

Henderson Brothers

, a specialist trading firm at the

New York Stock Exchange

. He spoke before the Dow's recent slide. "We did not have a real follow-through on yesterday's selloff. There is still confidence around, and some are doing a little bargain hunting," said Maguire, noting that oil prices have stabilized after a run-up yesterday, a sign he viewed as encouraging.

Tech stocks were something of a bright spot, however, with the tech-laden

Nasdaq Composite Index

up 11 to 2651. Still, that was well off its intraday high of 2676.45, set around 11 a.m.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

were all trading in slightly positive territory.

"The market is not up as much as I would have liked it, but there is some movement in the Nasdaq stocks, so that's encouraging," said Doug Myers, vice president of equity trading at

Wachovia Securities

in Atlanta. "That means someone is going back in and buying" the slightly battered stocks, he said. "I'm hoping it will hold."

Still, no one anticipates any real action today, and judging by past summer Fridays, most traders are just killing time, waiting for the closing bell and the end of a volatile week.

"My sense is that the market is going nowhere fast," said Alan Ackerman, executive vice president of

Fahnestock

. "It appears there are growing concerns that there may be higher inflation signals in the pipeline. Whether this is perception or a reality, it has tempered buying considerably and most traders and investors are in no hurry to do any bargain-hunting."

The Dow was down 75, or 0.7%, to 10,717 and the broader

S&P 500

was off 4 to 1337. The small-cap

Russell 2000

remained in the green, lately up 1 to 443.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was suffering under the weight of

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

and

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

, among others, declining 9, or 1.6%, to 553.

On the Big Board, advancers were beating decliners 1,411 to 1,326 on 379 million shares. On the

Nasdaq Stock Market

, 1,771 advancers were outpacing 1,698 decliners on 467 million shares. New 52-week lows were leading new highs 111 to 35 on the NYSE, but new highs were on top 60 to 36 on the Nasdaq.

The bond market was unable to get anything going, instead extending yesterday's downdraft. The benchmark 30-year Treasury was off 18/32 to 88 5/32, its yield swelling to 6.12%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early

Bond Focus.)

Friday's Midday Watchlist

By Thomas Lepri
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

was putting some heavy downward pressure on the Dow, lately down 5 5/16, or 3.8%, to 133 1/4 -- that's a loss of 26.91 points for the blue-chip index. The company said yesterday that Vice Chairman and CFO Richard Goeltz was stepping down.

Upside earnings aren't helping S&P 500 utility firm

GPU

(GPU)

today. GPU reported second-quarter operating earnings of 84 cents a share, well above the 14-analyst consensus of 66 cents and up from last year's 62 cents. But GPU was lately off 1 3/4 to 38 5/16, as the company acknowledged the role that the recent extraordinarily hot weather has played in juicing its numbers this quarter.

Meanwhile, S&P 500 bedfellow

Cardinal Health

(CAH) - Get Report

was surging 4 3/8, or 6.9%, to 68 3/4 after it posted fourth-quarter operating earnings of 58 cents a share, a penny ahead of the 15-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago operating earnings of 46 cents.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Chicago Title

(CTZ) - Get Report

was advancing 5 1/8, or 14%, to 41 13/16 following a report in the

Los Angeles Times

to the effect that fellow title insurer

Fidelity National Financial

(FNF) - Get Report

is in talks to acquire it in a transaction that could be valued at about $1.4 billion. Citing people familiar with the discussions, the paper wrote that, in the event of a deal, both companies would keep their names and identities.

Source Media

(SRCM)

was rising 7/16 to 12 5/8 on last night's news that it has signed a deal to form an interactive-TV portal in a joint venture with

Insight Communications

(ICCI)

, which was lately off 1/8 to 28 13/16.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Electronic Data Systems

(EDS)

was off 1 1/16 to 61 1/16 after yesterday reporting second-quarter earnings of 44 cents a share, a penny better than the 19-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 39 cents.

Footstar

(FTS) - Get Report

was slipping 1 3/4, or 4.6%, to 36 11/16 despite its solid second-quarter earnings report. The company said it earned 83 cents a share in the quarter, beating the five-analyst estimate of 81 cents and up from the year-ago 69 cents.

Gemstar

(GMST)

was up 4 15/16, or 8%, to 67 1/2 after

TV Guide

(TVGIA)

President Peter Boylan told analysts on a conference call that his company was on the verge of settling two patent-infringement lawsuits Gemstar has filed over TV Guide's interactive program guides.

Lam Research

(LRCX) - Get Report

was surging 8 1/8, to 17.6%, to 54 5/16 after it last night reported second-quarter earnings of 28 cents a share, blowing past the 19-analyst estimate of 12 cents a share and up from the year-ago 5-cent loss. Three brokerages got on the Lam today:

Advest

raised it to buy from market perform;

Goldman Sachs

upped it to its recommended list from market outperform; and

Warburg Dillon Read

hiked Lam to strong buy from buy.

Web ad agency

Modem Media.Poppe Tyson

(MMPT)

was rocketing up 5 5/16, or 25.6%, to 26 1/2 after it yesterday reported second-quarter earnings of 5 cents a share, confounding the three-analyst prediction of a 6-cent loss and up from the year-ago loss of 11 cents.

Solutia

(SOI) - Get Report

was off 7/16 to 21 7/16 after posting second-quarter earnings of 61 cents a share, in line with the 10-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 58 cents.

Tommy Hilfiger

(TOM)

was down 1 1/8 to 37 1/2 after it reported first-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share, ahead of the 15-analyst estimate of 37 cents and up from the year-ago 30 cents.

Offerings and stock actions

The latest two Net offerings are enjoying very respectable debuts today.

Intermedia Communications

(ICIX)

spinoff

Digex

(DIGX)

was moving up 4 7/16, or 26.1%, to 21 7/16, having been priced top-range at $17 a share yesterday by lead underwriter

Bear Stearns

. And

NetIQ

(NTIQ:Nasdaq) was lately up 2 3/4, or 21.2%, to 15 3/4 after being priced top-range at $13 a share last night by

Credit Suisse First Boston

.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

, which comprises

Martha Stewart's

print, television, radio and Internet businesses, filed yesterday with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

to offer as much as $100 million of stock.

Medical malpractice liability insurer

Miix

(MHU)

was also getting a good pop in its trading debut, lately up 4 1/4, or 31.4%, to 17 3/4.

Web telephony firm

Net2Phone

(NTOP)

was continuing to climb higher in its second day of trading, lately up 2 9/16, or 9.7%, to 29 1/8. Net2Phone yesterday gained 77.1% in its trading debut.

Analyst actions

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

was tumbling 4 1/4, or 5.4%, to 73 5/16 after

Warburg Dillon Read

analyst Saul Rubin cut it to buy from strong buy, reducing his target price on the company to 92 from 115.

Goldman Sachs

also weighed in on DaimlerChrysler, cutting its earnings-per-share estimates to 5.95 euros from 6.49 euros for 1999, and to 6.30 euros from 6.58 euros for 2000.

Glaxo Wellcome

(GLX)

was up 1 1/16 to 52 1/4 despite

Salomon Smith Barney's

downgrading of the company to neutral from outperform following its warning yesterday that it wouldn't meet its target of double-digit sales and earnings growth for 1999.

Miscellany

First Union

(FTU)

was off 1 5/8 to 46 3/8 after John Georgius resigned yesterday as president of the troubled bank. The company named Ken Thompson, its vice chairman of global capital markets, to replace Georgius when he retires at the end of the year.

Herb on TheStreet: Update: Why C3 Can't Help but Continue to Sparkle for Cree Research

By

Herb Greenberg

Senior Columnist

So, an item here

yesterday questioned whether

Cree Research

(CREE) - Get Report

would be able to continue to get 20% of its revs from

C3

(CTHR) - Get Report

, which makes fake diamonds made of moissanite. Cree sells silicon carbide crystals to C3, which uses them to make the fake gems, and C3's sales growth lately has paled compared with its own estimates.

A Cree spokeswoman wasn't available at the time, but she called yesterday with what seems, on the surface, to be a simple answer: Cree will get 20% of its revs from C3 because C3 has a sales agreement with Cree that requires C3 to buy

all

of Cree's silicon carbide crystal production through next June.

Say again? A sales agreement requiring C3 to buy

everything

moissanite-related Cree makes?

Yup.

You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'? Doesn't that sound a little like one company (C3) handing a blank check over to another company (Cree) with the unspoken understanding that one company (C3) will buy whatever the other company (Cree) needs to make its quarter?

You might think, though Cree CFO Cynthia Merrell doesn't see it quite that way. Among other things, fake gems are not a big part of its future plans, she says. But she adds that it has been "nice" to get the kind of profit margins that biz generates as well as the cash it has helped provide for research and development.

Still, there's no getting around that Cree and C3 have an agreement that insures that Cree, with a billion-dollar market cap (make that $900 million; it lost 10% of its value Thursday), will have a ready buyer for all the silicon carbide crystal product it makes. The agreement is disclosed, in detail, in C3's 10-K and proxy. (You would never know the coziness of the deal -- the "buy-all aspect" -- if you just read the "certain relationships" disclosure in Cree's

SEC

filings. Cree felt

that

was C3's responsibility. According to C3's SEC filings, in fact, the agreement actually ended at the end of June. But it was extended for another year, Merrell says.)

So, why should anybody have a problem with such an arrangement? On the surface, at least, this agreement looks too close for comfort. Never mind that the CEOs of the companies are brothers, or that a third brother helped start C3. And forget that until very recently Cree and its officers and directors owned around 5% of C3. (They sold it, Merrell says, for just the reasons nosy reporters seem to keep asking about.)

The real issue is what happens if demand for moissanite diamonds, which are only made by C3, aren't what C3 expects? As yesterday's column showed, C3's sales growth is slowing and its inventories are ballooning. C3 says the inventory will be worked off over the next half of the year as it more than doubles the number of stores that sell moissanite.

That raises another issue: C3 only sells moissanite to independent jewelry stores. It says it doesn't sell to the chains, like

Impostors

, the national fake-gem chain, because it doesn't want to cheapen the fake-gem's image. However, my assistant,

Mark Martinez

, got a different story from Impostors' marketing director Kathleen Jordan, who said, "We actually looked into moissanite, but declined ... The prices were just too high for moissanite." She added that diamonds made from cubic zirconia are "more accepted in the marketplace."

Merrell, from Cree, says that even if moissanite doesn't do as well as expected, her company figures that in a few years it'll be a tiny part of its overall business.

Maybe, but as this column pointed out yesterday, right now is all that counts.

Either way, you gotta agree: This is a gem of a story.

Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at

herb@thestreet.com. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.

Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.

746873

Copyright 1999, TheStreet.com