SAN FRANCISCO -- The "V" bottom market players were hoping to see needed support hose, but the most public face of technology retained some of its shapeliness today. Meanwhile, investors continued to cast a fetching eye toward blue-chips but grew less enthralled as the day wore on.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

failed to sustain an early morning bounce from the harsh selling of the past three days, but ceased caroming at midmorning and enjoyed a sparkling performance after lunchtime. This was the Nasdaq's worst point-loss week ever, with the Comp off about 8% since Monday.

After trading as high as 4559.62 shortly after the open, the tech-angled index declined steadily, trading as low as 4381.38 around 11:15 a.m. EST. Thereafter, the index found its footing and rose to as high as 4606.48 before closing up 114.70, or 2.6%, to 4572.59.

"This rebound is certainly healthy," said Todd Gold, technical strategist at

Gruntal

. "There's no way to portray

yesterday's action as positive, despite the fact we finished strong. But you have to take today's action as a positive. It doesn't mean we've bottomed, but it could be the first step."

The Comp's ability to close above its 50-day moving average around 4541, hold above yesterday's low and recover to close above today's initial spike were significant, Gold said.

The technician foresees the index settling into a trading range in the near-term between 4300 and 5000, with yesterday's low around 4355 a key support level and between 4675 and 4710 likely resistance on the upside.

"The fact the market was able to sell off the way it

did is something to be alarmed about," he said. "We'll see continued volatility in the coming weeks but hopefully

within a trading range. Hopefully, we saw the lows of that range yesterday."

The Comp was led by tech bellwethers such as

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

MCI WorldCom

(WCOM)

.

Also,

Net2Phone

(NTOP)

rose 7.5% after

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

made investments in the company through separate

deals .

IDT

(IDTC)

rose 11.6% after selling some of its Net2Phone stake to AT&T, which dipped 2.6%. Yahoo! rose 0.4%.

The

Nasdaq 100

rose 3.5%, while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

gained 2.7% and the

Morgan Stanley High Tech 35

climbed 2%.

Ironically, given the strength of most tech stalwarts,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

was the biggest drag on the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, which closed off 58.33, or 0.5%, to 10,921.92 after trading as high as 11,107.76.

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

also exerted a big negative influence on the index.

The Dow's tumble in the final hour was described as a result of "end-of-quarter shenanigans," by one market player. Meanwhile, certain individual stocks were enjoying "quintessential, classic end-of-quarter mark-ups," he said. For example.

RF Monolithics

(RFMI)

spiked from around 12 at 3:45 p.m. to as high as 16 1/8 on heavy volume before closing at 15.

Dot.Coms Feel the Pain

Meanwhile, there was continued pain in the Internet sector.

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

fell 14.1% on

reports the company's business practices are under investigation.

Despite eBay's drag,

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index rose 11.73, or 1.1%, to 1107.07 after trading as low as 1044.36.

Outside the DOT,

drkoop.com

(KOOP)

fell 41% after auditors questioned whether the company can continue as an ongoing concern.

Finally, B2B stocks were flayed by a

Prudential Securities

downgrade. Directly hit were

i2 Technologies

(ITWO)

, down 8.5%;

Commerce One

(CMRC)

, off 14.7% and

Ariba

(ARBA)

, which lost 5.6%.

Collateral damage was suffered by others, including

PurchasePro.com

(PPRO)

, which fell 17.4% and

VerticalNet

(VERT)

, off 10.3%.

"With this kind of volatility, efficient markets are not in the realm of possibility," said Scott Bleier, chief investment strategist at

Prime Charter

. But, "the big-cap, blue-chip tech names are holding their gains. They never cracked. They¿ve yet to disappoint. Heaven forbid Microsoft, Intel and Cisco got cut in half."

Simultaneous to the downgrade of the B2B players, Prudential upgraded the property/casualty insurance industry. In a microcosm, those concurrent actions provided a perfect reflection of the broader trend at work of late.

Aetna

(AET)

, which benefited from a separate upgrade by

Salomon Smith Barney

, rose 5%. The

S&P Insurance Index

rose 1%.

Other formerly out-of-favor groups, such as paper producers, were also on the rise today.

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

rose 6.5%, helping the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Forest & Paper Products Index

climb 3.3%.

The

S&P 500

rose 10.66, or 0.7%, to 1498.58 behind strength in select big-cap tech, cyclicals and transportation stocks. The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

rose 83.77, or 3.1%, to 2763.24 while the

American Stock Exchange Airline Index

gained 3%.

The

Russell 2000

gained 7.51, or 1.4%, to 539.08 as breadth improved noticeably.

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, 1.210 billion shares were exchanged while advancers led declining stocks 1,974 to 1,072. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action 2.093 billion shares traded while gainers led 2,502 to 1,812. New 52-week highs bested new lows 83 to 69 on the Big Board and while new lows dominated 224 to 48 in over-the-counter trading.

Amid the cautious optimism about the Comp's rebound, Edward Kerschner, chairman of investment policy at

PaineWebber

issued a harsh outlook for certain high-tech stocks.

"Even after recent price declines, valuations of 'new, new industrials' still look excessive by traditional metrics," Kerschner wrote in a report. "Further price declines seem likely."

The strategist made a distinction between "old new industrials" such as Microsoft and Cisco and so-called high flyers, although he did not mention specific stocks in the latter category.

"The growth opportunity in the New Economy is for real, but so too is the need for equities to have earnings," he wrote.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Utility Average

rose 2.01, or 0.7%, to 291.77 and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

rose 9.04, or 0.9%, to 1005.03.

The price of the 10-year Treasury note rose 9/32 to 103 18/32, its yield declining to 6.02%.

For the week, the Dow slid 1.7%; the S&P 500 lost 1.9%; the Nasdaq Comp tumbled 7.9%; the Russell 2000 shed 6.1%; the DOT tumbled 13%; the Dow transportation average rose 2.8%; the Dow utility average gained 1.6%; and the Amex composite shed 2.7%.

For the month of March, the Dow rose 7.8%; the S&P climbed 9.7%; the Comp lost 2.6%; the Russell declined 6.7%; the DOT declined 6.4%; the transports leapt 15.7%; the utility average rose 1.1%; and the Amex composite climbed 3.3%.

For the first quarter, the Dow fell 5%; the S&P 500 rose 2%; the Comp climbed 12.4%; the Russell added 6.8%; the DOT shed 4.1%; the transports fell 7.2%; the utility average gained 3%; and the Amex composite rose 14.6%.

For coverage of today's top stocks in the news, see the Company Report, published separately

.