Productivity Is the Key During Nasdaq's Monster Day

Greenspan speaks and tech stocks take off.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- "Productivity counts" was the message investors took from Alan Greenspan's second round of Humphrey-Hawkins testimony today. Thus, stocks most closely associated with productivity -- technology, that is -- returned to their role as Godzilla while blue-chips acted like Godzuki (yup, Godzilla's son), trailing along several paces behind.

"The issue of stock prices and equity values generally going up as a consequence of accelerating productivity is a perfectly understandable and appropriate thing to happen," Greenspan said during Q&A before the

Senate Banking Committee

,

Reuters

reported. The

Federal Reserve

chairman also denied using monetary policy to directly target stock market valuations. (Prior to the Q&A, Greenspan reread the

testimony given before the

House Banking Committee

on Feb. 17.)

In reaction, the

Nasdaq Composite Index

tore through its previous records for closing highs and best-ever point gains like the legendary lizard through celluloid Tokyo. The breathing-tech-like-fire index rose 168.16, or 3.8%, to an all-time high 4550.28 behind strength in bellwethers such as

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

, and

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

. The

Nasdaq 100

rose 5.1% to a record 4170.09.

Qualcomm jumped 12.2% and Cisco leapt 11.8% on word that

Standard & Poor's

will increase each of their weightings in the

S&P 500

after the close of trading today.

Chip stocks also continued to be in favor. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

rose 1.8% to a record 1007.49 thanks to gains from

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Motorola

(MOT)

and

LSI Logic

(LSI) - Get Report

, which was upgraded by

Warburg Dillon Read

.

In addition to Greenspeak, tech proxies got a lift from merger and related activity.

Alcatel

(ALA)

fell 8.6% after

agreeing to buy

Newbridge Networks

(NN)

, which dipped 4.6%.

Separately,

PairGain Technologies

(PAIR)

rose 9.4% after receiving a

buyout offer from

ADC Telecommunications

(ADCT) - Get Report

, which fell 5.9%.

Gateway

(GTW)

soared 18.3% after a bullish meeting with analysts and announcement of separate alliances with Sun Microsystems and

OfficeMax

(OMX)

, which rose 17.7%.

Finally,

Concur Technologies

(CNQR)

rose 16.4% after

Nortel Networks

(NT)

and

Safeco

(SAFC)

each made a $35 million equity investments in the company. Nortel gained 5.2% while Safeco shed 6.6%.

Elsewhere,

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index rose 82.58, or 7.6%, to 1167.48, led by

America Online

(AOL)

. AOL rose 14.9% after

Merrill Lynch

issued bullish comments about the firm's planned takeover of

Time Warner

(TWX)

, which rose 10.8%.

Merrill also gave a boost to

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

, which leapt 14.7% after the brokerage initiated coverage with a buy rating.

"AOL got things going then somebody -- everybody -- decided to allocate funds," Scott Bleier, chief investment strategist at

Prime Charter

said. "My guess is some tech-oriented mutual fund is deploying funds, chasing performance. People are buying stocks and in this market price is no object."

The market cap gains in Internet and biotech stocks, particularly, are "completely out of touch with what represents reality in terms of future cash flow and earnings," he said. "But it doesn't matter because all these stocks are pure momentum. And we -- as money managers -- have an obligation to participate. If we don't and we miss all these gains, we're not going to have clients for very long. That's why the merry game goes on."

TheStreet.com New Tech 30

rose 42.98, or 5.9%, to 766.50. Unveiled Jan. 5, the TSC New Tech 30 is a market-cap-weighted index focusing on tracking the so-called hot money part of the market. A list of index components is available at

http://www.thestreet.com/newtech/.

At the other end of the valuation spectrum, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell 79.11, or 0.8%, to 10,225.73 after trading as low as 10,164.92 and as high as 10,338.35.

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

and

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

provided the greatest drags on the Dow.

The S&P 500 rose 8.52, or 0.6%, to 1360.69. Major industry groups such as energy, chemicals, retailers, and transports returned to their losing ways, keeping the S&P 500 from advancing more earnestly.

All Clear!

The

Russell 2000

climbed 8.96, or 1.7%, to 549.91 as small-cap tech and bio-tech stocks revived after a brief slumber. The

American Stock Exchange Biotech Index

rose 5.9%.

In addition to momentum and Greenspan, market watchers said the "gloom and doom" evident late last week and early

yesterday was simply overdone.

"Eventually, interest rates reach a level that it starts to encourage some investors back into the stock market or it becomes clear the world is not going to come to an end as we thought on Friday," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at

First Albany

. "The most important thing is stocks have declined and have reached levels where they are arguably undervalued."

The price of the 30-year Treasury bond fell 17/32 to 101 23/32, its yield rising to 6.12% today as fixed-income traders were displeased at what they perceived to be back-pedaling by Greenspan from last week's

hawkish message. But yesterday, the long bond hit its lowest yield level since mid-November, Johnson noted.

On Monday, Johnson told clients, "despite the fact the market may scare you, don't reduce exposure further. In the equity portion of your portfolio remain overweight in tech and respond to the shift in small- and mid-caps. That's where you'll get your best performance right now."

The again, negative market internals continued to provide some traders reason for concern.

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, 993.7 million shares were exchanged while declining stocks bested advancers 1,758 to 1,235. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action 1.9 billion shares traded -- the sixth-busiest session ever -- while gainers led 2,199 to 1,987. New 52-week lows whipped new highs 211 to 44 on the Big Board while new highs led 247 to 120 in over-the-counter trading.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

fell 38.86, or 1.6%, to 2420.28; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

slid 2.38, or 0.8%, to 293.52; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

rose 0.53, or 0.1%, to 934.99.

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

.