A cold wind ripped through the canyons of Wall Street this afternoon, creating a low howl that harmonized with the market mood. Steep selling froze out the chances for a rally on either the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq Stock Market. Technology slid uncontrollably, leaving a red smear on tickers as money flew off the table. And the temperatures outside chilled as they fell.

With earnings season beginning to thicken and markets appearing to cool, late-night traders find themselves in an interesting predicament. They get first crack at these companies with their just-released news. Overall, volume gets thinner as earnings season rears its head. Night watchers usually choose to sit on the sidelines and let the day-session guys call the shots.

Tonight, that tradition stayed true on

Island

, as their investors stayed shy, while the

Instinet

crowd dived into the large cap names with less inhibition.

Some companies beat estimates by a penny and investors just shrug. What's a penny worth nowadays? You can't even get stale candy from a supermarket-vending machine with that. But the gap between

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

earnings and the estimate will send children into the parking lot with big grins.

You could probably run to the store and pick up two super hi-bounce balls and a cheap aluminum ring with the distance between AMD's first quarter and the analyst estimates. The chipmaker's earnings came in at $1.15 a share, 57 cents better than the 58-cent

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate. Last year's quarter got dwarfed as well, coming in at an 88-cent loss.

Sales topped $1 billion for the first time, coming in at $1.09 billion, 73% better than the previous year's quarter. Increased demand for the Athlon chip and its flash memory chips were the big reason for the sales boost. The company also said that full-year total sales growth would rise more than 50%.

The news was greeted happily by beleaguered investors, who send the stock up on both Instinet and composite trading. It rose 12 5/8 to 75 7/8 on 93,000 shares on Instinet and came well off its New York close.

AMD closed in New York at 63 13/16, some 6 13/16 points away from where it opened. The chipmaker had a rotten day along with the rest of the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

components. But, the earnings figures changed all that after the bell and AMD began to rocket higher in composite trading. At last check, AMD traded at 76, a 5 3/8 point gain for the day and some 12 3/16 points higher than where it closed in Gotham.

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

got taken to the mat. After releasing second-quarter earnings of 15 cents a share, investors applied the full nelson, squeezing out 21 51/64 to 192 1/64 on 61,000 shares on Instinet and 16 1/16 to 196 on 149,000 shares on Island.

The

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate was 14 cents a share, and despite beating that estimate and last year's quarter by 7 cents, Rambus got taken down. Maybe it missed the dreaded whisper number -- informal predictions that many Streeters chat about before the actual number hits. Ahead of the earnings, Rambus fell 32 3/16, or 13.1%, to 213 13/16.

Investors took the chip to chip interface technology maker even lower for a variety of reasons, but none more salient than sheer disappointment. With a price to earnings ratio of 593.92, expectations on Rambus are pretty high. That kind of valuation dwarfs the

S&P 500

average P/E ratio of 38.02 and the industry average of 50.58.

Many stockholders are looking not just to edge out estimates, but to crush them. When that doesn't happen, especially after a bad day like today, fed-up investors sell and take their money elsewhere. Like the bank.

Not every earnings release was as disastrous.

Ariba

(ARBA)

made good on its promise from last Monday and delivered earnings results that exceeded estimates. Ariba's second-quarter loss came in at 6 cents a share, beating the analyst's call of an 8-cent loss and last year's 7-cent drop.

Investors smiled on Ariba, which fell 9 9/16, or 11.7%, to 72 during the day. After dropping in the middle of the session Ariba gained ground in the wake of the AMD earnings release. It rose 3 to 75 on 69,000 shares on Instinet and 2 1/8 to 74 1/8 on 54,000 shares on Island.

Unlike Rambus, Ariba doesn't even have a P/E ratio. It has no earnings. But, Ariba might be catching a break because it's a business-to-business play, and a wounded one at that, having stumbled 56.5% in just one month. Its stock price has been more than halved since it hit 165 1/2 on Mar. 8. Rambus is no different. It has more than halved in a month as well, dropping from 445 1/16 on Mar. 13 to today's close north of 213.

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

was a late night winner, gaining 6 3/8 to 88 3/8 on 170,000 shares on Instinet and 7 3/16 to 89 1/4 on 33,000 shares on Island. The chipmaker released first-quarter earnings of 36 cents a share, beating the First Call/Thomson Financial estimate of 34 cents and last year's 23 cents.

Also boosting the company, which has a P/E ratio of 75.93, was news that it will be added to the

S&P 500

, replacing

Atlantic Richfield

(ARC) - Get Report

. Ahead of the news, Altera fell 4 5/16, or 5%, to 82.

Granted, it was on modest volumes, but postclose patrons pulled a

Jesse Jackson

and kept hope alive. Many of those cold, lifeless tech stocks warmed up after the bell. Usually, late night traders are bullish (you'd have to be to trade in a market with such poor liquidity). That predilection also held up this evening.

Big names appeared to rally after 6 p.m. EDT after AMD released earnings. Again, it is important to note that after-hours traders usually bring the big guys up in the postclose period. But with so many major market-cappers with gains in excess of a point, it's worth noting that the mood has changed from grim to something less morbid.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

rose 2 19/64 to 124 11/16 on 282,000 shares on Instinet and 3 3/16 to 125 on 31,000 shares on Island after slipping 8 7/8, or 6.8%, to 121 7/8 during the day. Fellow blue-chipper

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

, a 4 1/2-point loser, gained 1 1/64 to 80 25/64 on 310,000 shares on Instinet and 1 1/16 to 80 1/2 on 18,000 shares on Island.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

rose 1 39/64 to 66 39/64 on 314,000 shares on Instinet and 1 9/16 to 66 3/8 on 58,000 shares on Island. Today, Cisco was the most-actively traded Nasdaq issue, taking a 7.1% hit on close to 60 million shares traded. Tonight's volume was a little lighter than that robust mark.

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

, a vital part of the Nasdaq rally in late 1999, rose 1 1/2 to 126 5/8 on 13,000 shares on Island.

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

rose 2 17/64 to 82 17/64 on 144,000 shares on Instinet and 1 1/8 to 81 on 26,000 shares on Island. It fell 7 7/8, or 9%, to 80 during the day.

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

, another member of the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

along with Sun, also recovered in the postclose session. It rose 1 1/2 to 52 7/8 on 120,000 shares on Instinet.

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

saw 5.5% dip during the day session, but had a gain of 1 3/8 to 74 1/2 on 126,000 shares on Instinet and 1 17/32 to 74 21/32 on 13,000 shares on Island in its after-hours future.

This information is provided by Instinet, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reuters (RTRSY) . For further information, please contact Instinet at www.instinet.com.

Island ECN, owned by Datek Online, offers trading, mainly in Nasdaq-listed stocks, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT.

Confused?

TheStreet.com

explains how the rules change when the sun goes down in Investing Basics: Night Owl, a section devoted to after-hours trading.