Tech Gains Ground on Blue-Chips as Session Plods On

The focus is on Internet and transportation issues as the trading week moves toward a close.
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The pendulum is swinging back to tech but could use a little lubricant. After two-days of lagging traditional blue-chip counterparts, technology plays were back in favor this midday with Internet names leading the way.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was pushing further into record territory but had recently come off its morning highs. Blue-chip averages, meanwhile, were struggling to extend their recent record-setting gains but had bounced off early lows as lunchtime beckoned on Wall Street.

The Nasdaq lately was up 9 to 2582 but below its morning best of 2586.87.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

were leading traditional tech bellwethers, but

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

was mired in negative territory.

The

Nasdaq 100

was down 0.1%, demonstrating that nascent Net plays were really putting the juice in tech proxies.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 16 to 727 while

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

was higher by 3 to 132.

Net bellwethers

America Online

(AOL)

,

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

and

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

were all up this midday.

Among secondary Net plays, big gains were sported by the likes of

Inktomi

(INKT)

,

Network Associates

(NETA)

and

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

.

Finally,

theglobe.com

(TGLO)

was up 38.3% after setting a 2-for-1 stock split.

Meanwhile, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down 41 to 10,156, having traded as low as 10,094.47. The

S&P 500

was down 1 to 1343 after an initial move as high as 1344.44. The

Russell 2000

was up 1 to 401.

Many of the market's recent leaders, such as financials, cyclicals and consumer-focused names, were fading this morning. Among Dow components,

Union Carbide

(UK)

was among the biggest drag after merger rumors that aided the stock yesterday proved unfounded. Additionally,

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

downgraded the chemical giant.

Other names weighing on blue-chip averages included

United Technologies

,

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

,

Chase

(CMB)

and

McKesson HBOC

(MCK) - Get Report

.

Airlines were a bright spot in blue-chip land, reacting to word of an aviation agreement doubling flights between the U.S. and China. The

American Stock Exchange Airline Index

was up 3.2%. The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

was up 31, or 0.9%, to 3361.

Rumblings from Russia about

NATO

activities in Kosovo may have contributed to buyers' early reticence.

The Kremlin denied earlier reports President

Boris Yeltsin

ordered Russia's nuclear missiles to be redirected toward NATO countries. Yeltsin did warn Russia could not let the deployment of NATO ground troops in Kosovo go "unanswered."

Buoyed by the Cold War-esque machinations, spillover from yesterday's

European Central Bank

rate cut and a benign

Producer Price Index

report, the price of the 30-year Treasury bond lately was up 6/32 to 97 10/32, its yield dipping further to 5.43%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early

Bond Focus.)

Meanwhile, most equity investors remain unconcerned about the warfare in Europe.

"You have Russia rattling sabers. If someone accidentally pushed the wrong button, that's what people are concerned about," said Ken Ducey, director of trading at

BT Brokerage

. "But the market has acted very well in consideration of what's going on and still acts healthy. We have a strong economy with low inflation and it looks like they're going to keep interest rates in check."

Kucey attributed the modest setback for blue-chip averages to the fact "we get to a Friday and people are going to unwind positions. Maybe there's a little profit-taking but the market acts like it wants to go higher from here. I'm looking for higher prices in the near future."

The trader noted market breadth is improving, adding "the momentum is still there and with an upside bias."

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, declining stocks were leading advancers 1,437 to 1,335 on 405 million shares. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity, losers were leading 1,820 to 1,806 on 633 million shares. New 52-week highs were outpacing new lows by 60 to 49 on the Big Board and by 95 to 57 on the Nasdaq.

D-Day Approaches

Still, not everyone is so sanguine.

"It is a long-time phenomenon that economic-troubled countries usually use aggression toward other countries as their technique to take their citizens' mind off their sad plight," Don Hays, director of investment strategy at

Wheat First Union

, wrote this morning. "After the last 17 years of relative peace, should my contrary nature start to worry about a return of international discord? Should I worry that the conflict in Kosovo that is almost being ignored by the typical U.S. citizen is going to turn into something much more ominous? Should I worry that Russia, with strong nuclear power, and no clear leadership, is very much angered about our bombing of their Serb allies? What goes around, comes around, so yes, I'm concerned."

Hays, who has been recommending an increasingly defensive stance since February, also frets about possible Chinese devaluation, the "bear" market in the average stock, the Dow transports' lassitude, Internet mania and even

Goldman Sachs'

planned IPO.

Most of all, the veteran market watcher is concerned about complacency among many market players.

"Over the last 60 years, one theme has been engrained in my psyche, that when everything gets so bleak, you know based upon the natural laws that tomorrow will be better," he wrote. "On the other side of the aisle, when everything looks so wonderful and the optimists are telling me that perpetual motion has been discovered, I'd better start looking over my shoulder for the grim reaper. D-day in our scenario is definitely approaching."

Friday's Midday Movers

By Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

USInternetworking

(USIX)

was flying up 33 1/2, or 159.5%, to 54 9/16 after

Credit Suisse First Boston

priced its 6 million-share IPO above range last night.

Meanwhile, investors were waiting for

iTurf

(TURF)

to open after

BT Alex. Brown

and

Hambrecht & Quist

priced its 4.2 million-share IPO top-range at $22 a share. iTurf, whose offering range was raised to $21 to $22 from $10 to $12, is the online unit of teen clothing retailer

dELiA*s

(DLIA)

, up 1 1/2 to 33 1/8.

In other news:

e.spire Communications

(ESPI)

was up 2 1/4, or 18%, to 14 13/16 after

Business Week's

Inside Wall Street column said the company has been the subject of takeover talk. Topping the list of companies rumored to be interested in buying e.spire, the column said, is

Qwest

(QWST)

, which was up 1 5/8 to 86 5/8.

Guidant

(GDT)

was up 3 7/16, or 5.6%, to 65 1/8 after last night agreeing, as part of a settlement of a patent lawsuit, to pay $35 million to

Angeion

(ANGN)

for a royalty-free license to its current and pending patents covering heart stimulation devices. Angeion, down 5/32, or 25%, to 1/2, agreed to an injunction prohibiting sales of the Sentinel Model 2010 defibrillator.

As noted above, theglobe.com was up 22 3/8, or 38.3%, to 81 after last night announcing it plans to split its stock 2-for-1. Internet stocks were continuing their recent run toward outer space, with a few standouts being Inktomi, up 17 1/8, or 16.4%, to 121 3/8;

Net.B@nk

(NTBK)

, up 14 13/16, or 15.6%, to 110 1/2; and

TeleBanc Financial

(TBFC)

, up 12 13/16, or 12.8%, to 113 5/8.

Earnings/revenue movers

Cerner

(CERN) - Get Report

was down 3 5/16, or 21.4%, to 12 5/16 after last night estimating it will record first-quarter earnings of 7 cents to 9 cents a share, which would fall below the 21-analyst outlook for 16 cents. The company, which made 11 cents in the year-ago period, cited delays in purchasing decisions.

EndoSonics

(ESON)

was down 2 3/16, or 30.4%, to 5 1/16 after last night warning its first-quarter earnings probably will come in at a nickel a share, 2 cents shy of the seven-analyst forecast. The company, which lost 7 cents in the year-ago period, blamed a slower-than-expected rollout of its WaveWire product line and an ongoing wait for approval of its Vintage balloon catheter in Japan.

Key Energy Services

(KEG) - Get Report

was down 1/2, or 12.9%, to 3 3/8 after last night warning it sees a third-quarter operating loss of $1.15 to $1.20 a share due, in part, to depressed oil prices. The four-analyst forecast called for a loss of 22 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 35 cents. Key also said it started a recapitalization plan designed to reduce debt, increase shareholder equity and provide additional working capital.

Objective Systems Integrators

(OSII)

was down 5/16, or 9.8%, to 2 7/8 after last night saying its third-quarter results will fall below estimates because of slower sales. The four-analyst view called for a loss of 3 cents vs. the year-ago loss of 5 cents.

Vitesse Semiconductor

(VTSS)

was down 6 11/16, or 11.6%, to 50 13/16 even after last night posting second-quarter earnings of 22 cents a share, a penny ahead of the 15-analyst estimate and higher than the year-ago 15 cents. Today,

Prudential

lifted its 1999 earnings estimate for the company to 90 cents a share.