SAN FRANCISCO -- The respite from volatility market players have been craving finally arrived today, with the most public face of equities closing higher after a relatively steady performance.

But there wasn't much else to cheer about on Wall Street (for those long) as technology stocks continued to falter and bond yields continued to rise ahead of tomorrow's key economic reports (December

retail sales

and the

Producer Price Index

) and a speech by

Federal Reserve

Chairman

Alan Greenspan

.

The price of the 30-year Treasury bond fell 14/32 to 92 15/32, its yield rising to 6.71%.

Undaunted, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed up 40.02, or 0.4%, to 11,551.10 after trading as high as 11,612.53.

The Dow was led by

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

,

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

.

Paced by

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

, which

continued the decline evident in after-hours trading

last night, the

Nasdaq Composite Index

slumped 71.17, or 1.8%, to 3850.02 and

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index plunged 62.74, or 5.8%, to 1031.95.

Yahoo! finished 10% below Tuesday's New York close of 397 3/8 despite a phalanx of positive analyst comments. Yahoo! was not alone in retreating despite posting better-than-expected earnings and receiving generally favorable comments from sell-side analysts. The same fate befell

Seagate Technology

(SEG)

, down 4.4%, and

Ariba

(ARBA)

, which declined 9.4% to 172 7/8 after trading as high as 207.

The Comp -- which is now 6.8% below its all-time high -- and the Dow each faced downward pressure from

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

. The software giant fell 3.3% after

USA Today

reported that government lawyers have reached a consensus on a proposed breakup plan for the alleged monopolist.

The DOT was further hampered by

America Online

(AOL)

, which fell another 6.5% as investors continue to view Monday's

acquisition of

Time Warner

(TWX)

with skepticism. Time Warner fell 7.4%.

The deal continues to be a major topic of conversation among market players.

"I think people are still trying to figure out what

the AOL-Time Warner deal really means," said Tony Cecin, manager of Nasdaq trading at

U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray

. "Now they're talking about how difficult the integration going is going to be. The market will always find something to worry about."

There was just a general malaise among tech bellwethers, aside from exceptions such as H-P,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

, which rose ahead of its expected earnings announcement tomorrow, and

MCI WorldCom

(WCOM)

, which rebounded from yesterday's harsh selling. However, even those "winners" fell from intraday bests; H-P closed up 3.5% to 112 3/8 after trading as high as 113 1/8, Intel closed up 1.7% at 91 1/4 after trading as high as 94 3/4, and MCI WorldCom finished up 4% to 44 1/8 after trading as high as 45 7/8.

The

Nasdaq 100

fell 1.9% while the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

shed 1.7%.

Additionally,

TheStreet.com New Tech 30

fell 39.72, or 6.7%, to 551.67. Unveiled Jan. 5, the TSC New Tech 30 is an expanded index designed to replace the

Red Hots

index: The market-cap-weighted index remains focused on tracking the most scorching part of the market, the magnet for Wall Street's hot money. A list of the new index components is available at

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

"The fluff of telecom and tech stocks is beginning to get thin," said Tracy Herrick, market strategist at

Jefferies

in San Francisco. "It will wear down."

Herrick forecast the Nasdaq will trade as low as 2800 by May before recovering to end the year roughly in line with current levels.

It wasn't all bad in tech, however, as the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

rose 3.4% behind Intel and positive comments coming out of an industry conference.

The

S&P 500

fell 6.31, or 0.4%, to 1432.25 as declining growth giants offset modest strength in value stocks and the surprising resilience of financials, such as

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

and

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

, to the bond market's latest downturn.

The

S&P Barra Growth Index

fell 1.4% while its value counterpart rose 0.6%.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

rose 2.1%.

The

Russell 2000

declined 2.57, or 0.5%, to 490.04 reflecting the negative breadth.

Not Lulled Into Sense of Security

While the action was relatively subdued, "you've still got a real nervous, volatile market," Cecin said, noting the trashing suffered by Net stocks such as Yahoo! "With bonds threatening to touch 7%, it's going to be hard for the Nasdaq to make meaningful gains. It's more likely to give up some more."

Cecin sees no evidence of institutional money managers fleeing OTC bellwethers but recalled the Comp's "incredible gains" in the second half of 1999.

"The reality is Nasdaq stocks are still fairly pricey by any metric you want to use," the trader said. "You can't make a statement the market has any direction. It will continue to react in a volatile manner to day-to-day events. I don't think things keep going in an exponential manner."

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, 974.6 million shares were exchanged while declining stocks bested advancers 1,696 to 1,356. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action, 1.527 billion shares traded while losers led 2,334 to 1,799. New 52-week lows bested new highs 51 to 75 on the Big Board while new highs led 132 to 83 in over-the-counter trading.

A big "story stock" of the day was

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

, which fell 26% in heavy trading amid rumors -- denied by the NYSE -- that its stock would be delisted. Also,

Lehman Brothers

cut its recommendation to neutral from buy.

Among other indices,

Dow Jones Transportation Average

shed 13.32, or 0.5%, to 2936.24; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

gained 3.86, or 1.3%, to 298.23; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

fell 7.53, or 0.9%, to 857.98.

Elsewhere in North American equities, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

lost 82.65, or 1%, to 8359.96 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

rose 30.97 to 7174.10.

Market data above are preliminary. For coverage of today's top stocks in the news, see the Company Report, published separately

.