Stocks Are Jumping on Quarter-End Buying

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The last trading day of the first quarter finds money managers dancing with them that brung them, and dancing like dervishes at that.

All manner of stocks are higher this midday, but like the barnyard denizens of

Animal Farm

, some are more equal than others. Big-cap technology stocks, which have led the market's 1998 rally all the way so far, are the leaders again today.

Around 12:25 p.m. EST the tech-spangled

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 20, or 1.1%, to 1839, the large-cap

Nasdaq 100

was up 19, or 1.6%, to 1226, the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

was up 9, or 1.6%, to 546 and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was up 7, or 2.6%, to 301. The Comp, the Nasdaq 100 and the Morgan Stanley index were on pace for new record closes, with

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

in the vanguard.

The big tech members of the

S&P 500

were pushing that index up 15, or 1.4%, to 1109, passing the March 24 closing record of 1105.65. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 107, or 1.2%, to 8889, in sight of its March 20 record of 8906.43. The small-cap

Russell 2000

, up 4, or 0.8%, to 480, was on pace to top its Thursday record of 477.81.

The year-to-date stats on the major indices tell the story of what managers want to show clients on their quarter-end statements. Through yesterday, the Russell 2000 was up 9%, the Dow was up 11.1%, the S&P 500 was up 12.7%, the Nasdaq Comp was up 15.8% and the Nasdaq 100 was up a massive 21.8%.

"You've got the end of the quarter, you're seeing some money being out to work," said Jim Herrick, managing director of trading at

Robert W. Baird

in Milwaukee. "Oil prices are lower, which has helped the bond market. I expect the market to finish stronger, but I wouldn't be surprised if we take a breather tomorrow and Thursday ahead of nonfarm payrolls." The much-anticipated March

employment report

comes out Friday morning, with the

National Association of Purchasing Management Index

released tomorrow.

Larry Rice, chief investment officer at

Josephthal

, has spent the last several weeks calling for a pullback in stock prices to improve valuation levels. But

last week's 110.35-point Dow slide was "not enough to get me excited," he said. "I think you need more than just a little bit of a correction. Valuations at these levels continue to be very stretched. You're getting a little bit of help from the bond market today, but yields are way off their lows. Caution continues to be the watchword at these levels."

Rice isn't sanguine about the upcoming earnings season, for which analysts have cut their estimates lower than

Crazy Eddie

used to slash prices. "It's standard operating procedure: Guide 'em down, surprise 'em on the upside," Rice said. "Microsoft's the master at that one. But stocks are trading at virtual record highs, and with the dollar high, I'd expect downside earnings surprises. Most of the benefits from all the years of restructuring have already been wrung into this market."

And even though Rice stresses that he makes his comments in the context of an ongoing bull market, he thinks the current environment is over-rewarding stocks for beating expectations. "Momentum is carrying stocks way too far," he said. "Stuff like

Manugistics

that goes up 15 points and doesn't even back off -- you just shake your head at this stuff." Manugistics Group

(MANU) - Get Report

late

Thursday reported a loss 2 cents per share better than expectations, then soared 15 3/16 to 53 3/16 in Friday trading. At midday today it was up 1 1/2 to 56 5/16.

Tuesday 's Midday Movers

By

Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

RadiSys

(RSYS) - Get Report

was down 8 3/16, or 26%, to 23 1/4 after saying

last night that its first- and second-quarter earnings would fall below forecasts.

Cybex Computer

(CBXC)

was up 6 5/16, or 23.4%, to an intraday high of 33 1/2 after announcing

last night that its fourth-quarter earnings are expected to exceed estimates. The company also set a 3-for-2 stock split.

Advanced Tissue Sciences

(ATIS) - Get Report

was down 2 3/8, or 20.3%, to 9 3/8 after late yesterday announcing the recall of some lots of its Dermagraft and Dermagraft-TC products.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

cut it to neutral from outperform and

SBC Warburg Dillon Read

decreased it to neutral from buy.

Safety Components

(ABAG)

was up 2 3/8, or 17%, to 16 1/2 after

Bankers Trust Alex. Brown

started coverage with a strong buy.

SLH

(SLHO)

was up 4, or 14.6%, to 31 3/4 after agreeing to merge with privately held

Syntroleum

in a stock swap. SLH will change its name to Syntroleum.

Forest Laboratories

(FRX)

was up 4 1/8, or 12.9%, to an intraday high of 36 1/16 after announcing

yesterday that it has reached an agreement with a division of

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

to co-promote one Forest's products. This morning, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised it to strong buy from outperform.

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

was up 4 3/16, or 10.7%, to 43 5/8 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised it to outperform from neutral.

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

was up 2 9/16, or 9.7%, to 29 1/8 after

Prudential Securities

upgraded it to buy from hold.

Ibah

(IBAH)

was up 11/32, or 6.9%, to 5 3/8 after agreeing to be acquired by

Omnicare

(OCR)

in a stock deal valued at $169 million. Omnicare was up 1 1/4 to 39 5/16.

Motorola

(MOT)

was up 2 5/16 to 59 3/4 after a

Wall Street Journal

report that the company will merge its operations into large divisions as part of a major restructuring plan.

Hillenbrand

(HB)

was up 1 11/16 to an intraday high of 61 5/16 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 64 cents per share, 4 cents ahead of the five-analyst estimate.

American Home Products

(AHP)

was up 2 13/16 to 94 9/16 after

Schroder

upped it to outperform significantly from outperform.