Techs Lead Another Market Tumble as Smart Money Hugs Sidelines

The move comes on relatively muted volume, but some major indices have dropped below key levels.
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The

Nasdaq Composite Index

continued to do its deftly realized impression of

Philippe Petit

in buttered shoes, falling past the tattered net of its 50-day moving average into the uncertain air below.

Dell's

(DELL) - Get Report

revenue disappointment late

yesterday brought ominous thoughts of a PC-growth slowdown to the fore, and shaken investors took out their willies on the whole tech sector. The Nasdaq Comp tumbled 64.96, or 2.8%, to 2248.91, putting it 10.4% below its

Feb. 1 record high of 2510.20.

"Looking at the chart, it's close to its 50-day moving average," said Edward Clissold, assistant market strategist at

J.C. Bradford

in Nashville, Tenn. "The moving average is 2259 and there's additional support at 2200. There's longer-term support at 2050."

The picture was no finer among other tech-focused indices, with the large-cap

Nasdaq 100

down 3.2%, the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

down 3.5%, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

down 4.7% and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

down 3.3%.

Internet stocks mounted a feeble effort to rebound from

yesterday's washout, but it failed.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index lost 12.70, or 2.7%, to 459.13, while

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

fell 3.98, or 4%, to 95.25.

'The ones that were off were not a ton of volume, but people don't want to step in front of this because it feels ugly,' McDonald's Jay Meagrow said. 'It looked ugly from the get-go. I can't believe we were up 60

on the Dow at one point, because there was nothing that looked that good.'

Blue-chips held up better than techs, but only modestly so. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

slid 101.56, or 1.1%, to 9195.47. That's a 4.6% dip from the measure's

Jan. 8 peak of 9643.32. As befits a tech-selloff session,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

led the way down.

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

and

Sears

(S) - Get Report

were little help on the long side either as retailers gave back gains.

The broad

S&P 500

lost 17.84, or 1.4%, to 1224.03 -- also piercing its 50-day moving average, and putting it down for the year -- and the small-cap

Russell 2000

surrendered 6.86, or 1.7%, to 389.54.

On the plus side, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

jumped 31.40, or 1%, to 3152.16 as

Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Report

,

FDX

(FDX) - Get Report

,

Ryder System

(R) - Get Report

and others soared. The

Dow Jones Utility Average

powered up 1.1% on a strong bond market.

But most equities took no solace in that rising bond market, where the 30-year Treasury gained 18/32 to 99 5/32 and saw its yield ease to 5.31%.

Inside the stock market, all was tepidity and crimson.

New York Stock Exchange

decliners beat advancers 1,955 to 1,061 on 733.1 million shares, with 152 new 52-week lows overwhelming 21 new highs. The

Nasdaq Stock Market

saw 907 million shares change hands -- relatively weak, given Dell's stunning 112.2 million-share day -- and decliners overmatched advancers 2,859 to 1,189. New Nasdaq lows topped new highs 111 to 25.

"The ones that were off were not a ton of volume, but people don't want to step in front of this because it feels ugly," said Jay Meagrow, vice president of trading at

McDonald

in Cleveland. "It looked ugly from the get-go. I can't believe we were up 60

on the Dow at one point, because there was nothing that looked that good."

Meagrow said his shop's focus on midcap issues gives him a good sense of where money is shifting in the market, and right now it looks like there's considerable asset reallocation going on. He pointed to the strength in utilities, a defensive area that Meagrow and others in the market see attracting short-term funds from the tech sector.

And the relatively low volume shows that a lot of smart-money investors are playing the wallflower in this dance, Meagrow said. "They're not doing what they're usually doing, standing in front of it buying 10s and 15s all the way down," he said. He speculates that tomorrow may see more of the same, but "Friday could be a real active day."

Elsewhere in North American equities, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

fell 61.81, or 1%, to 6324.67 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

gave up 82.70, or 2%, to 4076.34.

Wednesday's Company Report

By Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

In the end, Dell was damaged down 7 1/4, or 8.2%, to 81 9/16 -- off its morning low of 77 3/8 -- on 112 million shares following

last night's news of in-line fourth-quarter earnings and a disappointing, though huge, jump in revenue. The response among brokerages was mainly a full-throated endorsement of the status quo, with

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

,

Credit Suisse First Boston

and

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

all reiterating existing ratings.

SoundView Financial Group

reportedly trimmed Dell to buy from strong buy.

Elsewhere among PC makers, Hewlett-Packard scratched off 2 3/8 to 68 1/8 despite last night's stronger-than-expected earnings. Credit Suisse First Boston reiterated its buy on H-P; Morgan Stanley Dean Witter reiterated its neutral.

Compaq

(CPQ)

lost 1 13/16 to 41, and

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

lost 1 7/16 to 37.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

BellSouth

(BLS)

shrugged off 4, or 8.1%, to 45 1/2 on confirmation of a deal with

3Com

(COMS)

, anticipation of which sent BellSouth's shares leaping yesterday. The companies are working to offer high-speed Internet access to BellSouth customers. 3Com picked up 5/16 to 32 3/16.

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

rose 1 3/8 to 233 on a

Wall Street Journal

report of talks between the auction site and

America Online

(AOL)

. AOL slid 6 1/2 to 153.

Equitrac

(ETRC)

spiked up 3 3/8, or 17.1%, to 23 3/4 after an affiliate of

Cornerstone Equity Investors

agreed to buy the company for $25.25 a share in a recapitalization deal valued at about $100 million.

Geoworks

(GWRX)

swelled 1 15/16, or 58.5%, to 5 1/4 after

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

late yesterday bought 7% of the company for $5 million. Amazon lowered 5 1/8, or 5.2%, to 93 1/2.

Navistar

(NAV) - Get Report

skidded 3 7/8, or 9.1%, to 38 1/2 after running up yesterday on speculation of a takeover by

Volvo

(VOLVY)

. Volvo slouched 11/16 to 26 3/16.

Public Service Co. of North Carolina

(PGS)

popped 6 11/16, or 29.4%, to an annual high of 29 7/16 after

Scana

(SCG)

agreed to acquire the company for about $900 million, including debt. Scana dropped 13/16 to an annual low of 26.

United Technologies

added 5/8 to 121 3/4 after saying it's in talks with potential buyers to unload its auto parts business for about $2 billion.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

slipped 3/16 to 67 3/8 after late yesterday reporting stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

upgraded the stock to top pick from buy.

Atlantic Data

(ADSC)

shares halved, falling 4 11/16 to an all-time low of 4 3/4, after last night warning its fourth-quarter results could be as low as a loss of 4 cents a share. The three-analyst forecast called for earnings of 12 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 15 cents.

CBRL Group

(CBRL) - Get Report

shaved off 3 5/16, or 15.3%, to an annual low of 18 3/8 after warning that it expects to report 1999 earnings of $1.35 to $1.45 a share. The 19-analyst outlook calls for profit of $1.65, matching the 1997 figure. CBRL also reported second-quarter earnings of 28 cents a share, in line with estimates but down from the year-ago 32 cents.

Crown Cork & Seal

(CCK) - Get Report

lowered 7/8 to 28 3/8 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 27 cents a share, in line with the four-analyst view but behind the year-earlier 31 cents.

Fluor

(FLR) - Get Report

lost 1 to 35 9/16 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 68 cents a share, a cent short of the seven-analyst estimate but up from the year-ago 66 cents.

Fruit of the Loom

(FTL)

tumbled 1, or 6.9%, to 13 9/16 despite reporting a fourth-quarter loss of 15 cents a share, 2 cents better than the five-analyst forecast and up from the year-ago loss of $5.56 on charges.

H.B. Fuller

(FULL)

grew 2 1/16, or 5.3%, to 41 3/16 after late yesterday issuing a positive first-quarter forecast.

Heinz

(HNZ)

brought in 1/4 to 55 7/8 after announcing a restructuring plan designed to achieve 10% to 12% annual earnings growth over the next four years. The company plans to expand 13 to 15 factories while closing 15 to 20 others and downsizing 10 more.

TheStreet.com's

options reporter

Dan Colarusso

saw the call-buying on Heinz

last week.

Intimate Brands

(IBI)

sloughed off 5/8 to 39 1/8 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 98 cents, in line with the 25-analyst outlook and above the year-ago 79 cents.

TheStreet.com

noticed that a recent chart of

Victoria's Secret

owner IBI looks quite, uh, curvy.

Kellstrom

(KELL)

stumbled 1/4 to 16 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 45 cents a share, a penny ahead of the four-analyst estimate and above the year-ago 27 cents.

Masco

(MAS) - Get Report

slid 1 3/4, or 5.7%, to 28 7/8 despite reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 36 cents a share, a penny ahead of the 11-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 31 cents. The company said it should post record results in 1999 if the economy remains at least moderately strong.

Medtronic

(MDT) - Get Report

dropped 6, or 7.4%, to 75 after late

yesterday warning that third-quarter revenue from freshly acquired

Arterial Vascular Engineering

fell short of expectations.

Micro Warehouse

(MWHS)

sank 2 3/16, or 7.6%, to 26 7/16 despite late yesterday reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.

Orbital Sciences

(ORB)

lost 2 1/4, or 7.6%, to 27 3/8 after

yesterday reporting a fourth-quarter loss on charges. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter downgraded the stock to neutral from outperform.

Roberts Pharmaceutical

(RPC)

lifted 1 13/16, or 9.5%, to 20 15/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 21 cents a share, topping the six-analyst forecast by 7 cents and the year-ago figure by a dime.

Superior Services

(SUPR)

took in 1 7/16, or 9%, to 17 3/4 after last night recording fourth-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share, a penny ahead of estimates.

Offerings and stock actions

Mannatech

(MTEX) - Get Report

shot up 8 3/4, or 38.5%, to 31 3/4 -- off its session high of 44 1/2 -- in its second day of trading.

Recent IPO

Prodigy

(PRGY)

finally showed signs of slowing, dropping 7 1/2, or 15.3%, to 40 3/4.

Seagate

(SEG)

skidded 3 3/8, or 10%, to 30 3/8 despite yesterday's announcement of a boost in its stock buyback plan. Others in the disk-drive group saw pressure as well, with

Western Digital

(WDC) - Get Report

down 1 1/16, or 9.5%, to 10 1/8 and

Read-Rite

(RDRT)

down 1 1/4, or 10.4%, to 10 13/16.

TCA Cable

(TCAT)

soared 6 1/4, or 17%, to an all-time high of 43 1/8 after famed investor

Warren Buffett

reported a 8.1% stake in the company.

Analyst actions

Balanced Care

(BAL) - Get Report

tanked 2 13/16, or 56.3%, to an all-time low of 2 3/16 after

BT Alex. Brown

lowered the stock to market perform from buy.

Great Lakes Chemical

(GLK)

hopped 4 5/8, or 13%, to 40 1/4 after

Deutsche Bank Securities

upped it to buy from accumulate. Buffett also announced a 6.8% stake in Great Lakes.

Miscellany

AmSouth Bancorp

(ASO)

flourished 3 13/16, or 8.5%, to an all-time high of 48 9/16 on last night's news that it will replace

TCI

(TCOMA)

in the S&P 500.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

is acquiring TCI.

EntreMed

(ENMD)

sank 1 13/16, or 8.7%, to 19 1/16 after

TSC

questioned the company's high valuation in a

story yesterday.

Venator

(Z) - Get Report

plunged 3/4, or 17.4%, to a more-than-15-year low of 3 9/16 after its CFO, Reid Johnson, resigned after a recent debt rating downgrade. Bruce Hartman, a former vice president, will assume the post.