Monday: Running with the Cisco Kids

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By John J. Edwards III
Staff Reporter

Forget that pale paste of hydrogenated oils -- America's cooking with

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

.

The leading networker is continuing to lead the tech sector higher ahead of its earnings release, set for tomorrow after the close. Cisco was up 2 1/4 to 59 1/2 around midday, having climbed steadily since its April 25 close of 46 3/8.

SoundView Financial Group

this morning upgraded Cisco to short-term buy from hold, maintaining a long-term buy, and set a short-term price target of 70.

Other networkers are basking in Cisco's reflected glory, with

Ascend

(ASND) - Get Report

,

3Com

(COMS)

,

U.S. Robotics

(USRX)

and even

Shiva

(SHVA)

all sharply higher. And this all comes amid a general tech and small-cap rally that shows no signs of flagging -- the tech-driven

Nasdaq Composite Index

is up more than 1.5% today after enjoying its largest point gain ever Friday, and the

Russell 2000

has tacked on 1.7%.

"People are scrambling to buy tech," one trader said, proceeding to mix a metaphor in the heat of the moment: "People feel as though Cisco's out of the woods, so it's safe to go back in the water."

Large-caps are extending last week's rally as well. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

has been challenging its March 11 record, spending the morning knocking around under and over the 7100 mark. But not every big company is joining the upward parade.

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

is suffering from a wave of negative media, dragging the rest of the tobacco group down with it. Big Mo was under the withering spotlight of

CBS News'

"60 Minutes" last night, and a

Barron's

article published this weekend focuses on how juries -- those pesky avatars of democracy -- might derail the vaunted $300 billion tobacco settlement.

Meanwhile, in the tech world,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

continues to slide from its April 30 high of 121 1/2. It recently traded around 118, no doubt bringing a smile to the

Ticketmaster

(TKTM)

execs pursuing an odd vendetta against MSFT's

Seattle Sidewalk

links to TKTM's Web site.

And then there's the financial world's one-word punchline:

Bre-X

(BXMNF)

. No, they won't be open for a while. That big buying opportunity will just have to wait.