Stocks Close Higher as Tech Sector Rallies

The Treasury market was up modestly.
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An odd day indeed.

For example, take the fact that two of the biggest pieces of corporate news came out of the aluminum sector. And then there were the rumors that

Fed

Chairman

Alan Greenspan

might be resigning. Add to that

Blockbuster

(BBI) - Get Report

, which made its trading debut today, traded in a range of 15 to 15 1/16. It was last quoted at 15.

Also unusual, at least recently, was the fact that stocks gained sharply, led by the beaten-up tech sector.

As for news in the world of aluminum,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

has offered to buy

Reynolds Metals

(RLM) - Get Report

for $5.6 billion in cash and stock. Alcoa was up 3 to 69 9/16, while Reynolds Metals was up 9 1/16, or 16.2%, to 65 1/4.

A number of hours before the Alcoa announcement, Canada's

Alcan

(AL) - Get Report

, France's

Pechiney

(PY) - Get Report

and Switzerland's

algroup

said they plan to get together. Alcan was up 3 1/16, or 9.1%, to 36 11/16, while Pechiney was up 2 5/16, or 8.2%, to 30 9/16.

The Wall Street Journal

yesterday reported the three companies were in talks.

As for the Greenspan rumors, market players pooh-poohed the chatter. Initially, however, the talk was enough to take some of the wind out of stocks. Major stock proxies stumbled for a while in the morning, but then in the afternoon began rallying and managed to close sharply higher.

Market-friendly economic news was among the factors aiding stocks. The Fed's

Beige Book

said: "Widespread labor shortages persist in virtually every district, but there have been only scattered reports of an actual acceleration in wages," the report said. "Final prices of goods and services remain relatively stable for the most part. There are some reports of accelerating prices -- largely related to home construction -- but there is no evidence of any broad-based pickup in consumer price inflation."

On the

New York Stock Exchange

, advancers beat decliners 1,872 to 1,126 on 787.3 million shares. On the

Nasdaq Stock Market

, winners beat losers 2,289 to 1,558 on 905 million shares.

On the NYSE, 219 issues set new 52-week lows while 40 touched new highs. On the Nasdaq, 101 issues set new 52-week lows while new highs totaled 49.

On the Big Board,

America Online

(AOL)

was most active, with 25.3 million shares changing hands. It was up 5 15/16 to 90 15/16.

Company Focus: Intel

The world's biggest chipmaker will get bigger through acquisitions, according to

Credit Suisse First Boston

chip analyst Charlie Glavin. In a note today, Glavin predicted that Intel will make more acquisitions that will top $1 billion or more each, now that it has closed its $2.7 billion

purchase of network chipmaker

Level One

(LEVL) - Get Report

. Among the companies Intel will likely pick up will be those in wireless and data storage.

The purchase of Level One is Intel's biggest acquisition to date, seven times larger than its $387 million purchase of graphics chipmaker

Chips & Technologies

in 1997. Glavin noted that Intel will take a $110 million to $330 million in-process R&D charge in the third quarter for the Level One acquisition and will amortize about $1.8 billion to $2 billion in goodwill over the next five years. "Despite the large write-off, we still expect Intel to make additional acquisitions (including other deals in excess of $1 billion) to further advance efforts that will help evolve Intel into a more communications-centric company," Glavin wrote. Intel was up 4 5/16 to 76 and was most active on the Nasdaq with 40.2 million shares changing hands.

-- Marcy Burstiner

Market data above are preliminary. Updated numbers and analysis will follow in the Market Roundup

Earlier...

3:14 p.m.: Stocks Add to Gains as Techs Jump

While

Red Hat Software

(RHAT)

was enjoying an eye-popping debut, soaring 284%, another notable market newcomer,

Blockbuster

(BBI) - Get Report

, has barely moved at all.

2:00 p.m.: Stocks Climb Anew After Slipping From Highs on Greenspan Rumor

Red Hat Software

(RHAT)

was flying in its trading debut, up 248% to 48 7/8.

1:19 p.m.: Midday Musings: Stocks Maintain Gains but Stutter-Step a Bit

12:12 p.m.: Stocks Fall From Session Highs on Greenspan Rumor

It's been somewhat of an unusual day so far considering stocks are up (something that hasn't happened for a while) and the biggest bits of news are coming out of the world of aluminum.

10:59 a.m.: Stocks Remain Higher as Alcoa Offers to Buy Reynolds Metals for $5.6 Billion

Going into this week, it is doubtful that many people would've guessed that some of the biggest news of the week would come out of a sector as, well, unsexy as aluminum.

10:03 a.m.: Stocks Climb at the Open

Here's something reporters haven't written for a little while: Stocks are up.