There were mixed signals for the market to digest today. Fittingly, perhaps, major indices ended, well, mixed. But traders were relieved and even impressed by the market's continued ability to resist severe downturns.

"Basically, it was a nice reversal," said Anthony Conroy, head of stock trading at

Bankers Trust

. "They had a chance to take 'em down big -- you had some of the big guys out there talking correction and people looking at the bond-market auction -- but the market was pretty resilient. Technology was the real key to the turnaround."

Technology stocks were inspired by chip equipment makers and announcements of separate alliances between

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Motorola

(MOT)

, and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

and

British Telecommunications

(BTY)

.

On the flip side, Ralph Acampora of

Prudential Securities

and Richard McCabe of

Merrill Lynch

each issued some unflattering comments about the stock market. Additionally, transports got whacked and the bond market could not sustain its early gains ahead of tomorrow's auction of $15 million in five-year notes. The 30-year Treasury bond ended unchanged at 98 17/32, its yield at 5.35%.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was the best performing of the major indices, rising 31.30, or 1.3%, to 2404.92. The tech-flavored index closed down from its initial high of 2414.98 but managed to climb from a late-morning low of 2358.05.

In the wake of last week's shellacking, most tech bellwethers closed higher, sending the

Nasdaq 100

up 2.3%. Up more than 3% each were Microsoft,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

; the last ahead of Chairman Michael Dell's scheduled speech at the

Goldman Sachs

technology conference tomorrow.

Chip equipment makers, led by

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

and

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

, staged an impressive uprising after analysts at Merrill Lynch and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

offered separate upgrades of the sector. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

rose 3.7%.

Internet stocks had a tougher time, however.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index fell 27.67, or 5.2%, to 504.85 and

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

shed 3.36, or 3.2%, to 101.84. Options on the E-Commerce Index begin trading on the

American Stock Exchange

Feb. 17; quotes became available Friday, under the symbol ICX.

Weakness in

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

and

Egghead.com

(EGGS)

weighed on both proxies while leaders such as

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

were unable to muster any forward progress.

Outside the indices, but in the throes of some major volatility, smaller online brokers again retreated from blockbuster gains registered last week.

J.B. Oxford

(JBOH)

lost 30%,

Siebert Financial

(SIEB) - Get Report

shed 22.6% and

M.H. Meyerson

(MHMY)

lost 24.4%.

Small-cap stocks stumbled, overall, but not to the same degree; the

Russell 2000

slid 1.39, or 0.3%, to 411.33.

On the blue-chip side of the ledger, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

climbed as high as 9334.88 initially, tumbled as low as 9209.24 around midday, and then recovered somewhat in the afternoon to close off 13.13, or 0.1%, to 9291.11.

Chevron

(CHV)

was the biggest positive influence on the index, but weakness in components such as

United Technologies

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

proved too much to overcome.

The

S&P 500

gained 4.37, or 0.4%, to 1243.77. Strength in technology, energy, and select consumer-focused names such as

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

kept the index out of the red. Weakness in the financials and transports prevented a bigger upside.

AMR

(AMR)

fell 4.9% after having to cancel hundred of flights due to a dispute with the pilots' union of its

American Airlines

unit. Other carriers fell in sympathy; the

American Stock Exchange Airline Index

2.1%. That performance helped send the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

down 38.41, or 1.2%, to 3209.25.

Conroy noted the week is jam-packed with potentially market roiling events, including the likely end to the

Clinton

impeachment proceedings and

Fed

Chairman

Alan Greenspan's

testimony on Thursday before the

House Banking Committee

. But he does not expect a big reversal unless there are signs of higher interest rates.

"Normally it's not earnings that take you into a bear market, it's some kind of event," he said. "The past couple of times it's had something to do with interest rates. If the Fed says they're raising interest rates, you're going to see a dramatic correction."

In

New York Stock Exchange

action, a modest 709 million shares traded -- the lowest total since

New Year's Eve -- while declining stocks led advancers 1,559 to 1,401. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity, losers led 2,163 to 1,880 on 887.5 million shares. New 52-week lows led new highs 74 to 22 on the Big Board but new highs led 59 to 52 in over-the-counter trading.

Market's Muddling Here to Stay?

The market's indecisiveness is exactly what Buzz Hussey, managing director at

Dain Rauscher Wessels

in Dallas, said investors should expect in the near to intermediate term.

"I've been moderately bullish for a long time but it makes sense to have some cash," Hussey said. "The market is high and there's a lot of money sloshing around, but there's a lot of nervousness and people with big profits. That leads to a situation where you can have some selloffs in various industries and sectors."

Hussey said investors need to be "opportunistic" rather than outright "bearish or bullish" in the current environment. "I don't see the market going up or down a lot of from here, but there's a lot of rotation from group to group. At any moment, stocks you want to buy or own for one reason or another can get hit 20% to 30%."

The best opportunities for new investment are in homebuilders such as

Southdown

(SDW)

and

U.S. Home

(UH)

, or energy plays such as

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

and

Halliburton

(HAL) - Get Report

, the strategist said. Dain Rauscher has not done any equity underwriting for the aforementioned.

Hussey is also enamored with technology stocks, which "clearly have the momentum and dramatic fundamentals." But, "I'm not sure I'd buy 'em here today," he said. "You've got the Goldman Sachs conference going on, and there's some enthusiasm built up. They'll be a better time to buy 'em than today."

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Utility Average

gained 2.31, or 0.8%, to 293.60; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

fell 0.86, or 0.1%, to 706.26.

Elsewhere in North American equities, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

lost 49.60, or 0.8%, to 6583.77 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

edged up 3.25 to 4016.80.

Monday'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.

)

As noted above, Applied Materials popped 6 11/16, or 11%, to an all-time high of 67 7/16 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter lifted it to strong buy from neutral and Merrill Lynch upgraded it to intermediate-term buy from accumulate. Merrill also pushed up a slew of other semiconductor names:

Cymer

(CYMI)

jumped 2 7/8, or 11.4%, to 28 and KLA-Tencor jumped 4 3/16, or 7.8%, to 58 1/16 after the firm raised them to intermediate-term buy from accumulate;

Advanced Energy Industries

(AEIS) - Get Report

jumped 1 3/8, or 5%, to 29 1/8,

Lam Research

(LRCX) - Get Report

jumped 1 15/16, or 5.6%, to 36 15/16,

Silicon Valley Group

(SVGI)

jumped 2 1/8, or 14%, to 17 5/16 and

PRI Automation

(PRIA)

jumped 2 3/16, or 5.5%, to 42 1/16 after the firm raised them to intermediate-term accumulate from neutral;

STMicroelectronics

(STM) - Get Report

jumped 4 5/8, or 5.1%, to 94 5/8 and

ASM Lithography

jumped 2 15/16, or 6.8%, to 46 1/16 after the firm raised them to intermediate-term accumulate from neutral and to long-term buy.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Executive Risk

(ER)

soared 21 1/8, or 48%, to 65 1/8 after

Chubb

(CB) - Get Report

agreed to buy it in a stock-for-stock deal valued at $850 million. Chubb, which lost 2 5/8 to 55 7/16, was the subject of a story in

Barron's

saying that, with

Congress

expected to dismantle the remaining barriers that separate banking from insurance, Chubb could have takeover appeal to a large U.S. financial-services firm that wants to expand into insurance. In a recent research report on

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway

(BRKA:NYSE),

PaineWebber

analyst Alice Schroeder identified Chubb as the one insurer Buffett might be interested in acquiring, the paper said.

Separately, Executive Risk posted fourth-quarter earnings of 93 cents a share, in line with the 10-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 84 cents.

In other insurance news, insurance analyst Weston Hicks, ranked as the No. 1 insurance/nonlife analyst for five straight years by

Institutional Investor

magazine, has left

Sanford C. Bernstein

and joined

J.P. Morgan

. At Morgan, Hicks will continue to cover property and casualty companies.

In recent weeks Bernstein has also lost Moshe Orenbuch, who moved to

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

to cover specialty finance companies.

A J.P. Morgan spokesman declined to comment.

Computer Management Sciences

(CMSX)

powered up 4 1/8, or 17.7%, to 27 9/16 after

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

agreed to acquire the company for $435 million. Computer Associates slid 7/16 to 45 7/8.

EarthLink Network

(ELNK)

dropped 1 1/8 to 71 /38 after it and

MBNA

(KRB)

unveiled the

EarthLink Visa

card, which the companies dubbed the "official credit card of the Net." MBNA lost 1/4 to 24 11/16.

Motorola picked up 1 7/8 to 68 5/16 and Cisco added 11/16 to 101 15/16 after saying they will invest up to $1 billion over the next four to five years to deliver an Internet-based wireless network.

Separately, Motorola,

Nextel Communications

(NXTL)

,

Netscape

(NSCP)

and

Unwired Planet

unveiled Nextel Online wireless Internet services, combining voice, data and the Internet. Nextel lifted 1 3/4, or 5.8%, to 32 1/16; Netscape fell 1 1/2 to 67 15/16.

NAC Re

(NRC) - Get Report

shot up 6 13/16, or 15%, to 52 1/8 on word

XL Capital

(XL) - Get Report

, a Bermuda-based insurer, is in negotiations to acquire the company for about $1 billion in stock. XL Capital lowered 7/16 to 61 15/16.

Patriot American Hospitality

(PAH) - Get Report

took in 1/2, or 8.3%, to 6 9/16 after both

Hilton Hotels

(HLT) - Get Report

and an investor group led by

Apollo Real Estate Advisors

sweetened competing offers for a piece of the hotel real-estate investment trust,

The Wall Street Journal

reported. Hilton brought in 11/16 to 15 3/8.

Sun Microsystems rose 3 15/16 to 104 1/2 after announcing it would integrate

BMC Software

(BMCS)

products into its own products and internal corporate systems. BMC added 7/8 to 46 1/8.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

LSI Logic

(LSI) - Get Report

spiked up 3 1/8, or 13.1%, to 26 15/16 after

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

upgraded the stock to strong buy from buy saying the company probably will exceed its own first-quarter earnings view. The 17-analyst forecast calls for a break-even first quarter compared to the year-ago profit of 22 cents a share.

Pioneer Group

(PIOG)

lifted 1 1/8, or 6.4%, to 18 5/8 even after late

Friday recording a fourth-quarter loss of 40 cents a share, below the two-analyst forecast for a profit of 20 cents and the year-ago profit of 31 cents. The company blamed economic global turmoil, production shortfalls and low gold prices. Pioneer also said it's closing its brokerage operations in Russia.

Sprint PCS Group

(PCS)

won 2 13/16, or 9.6%, to 32 1/8 after reporting it added 836,000 new subscribers in the fourth quarter, bringing its total new subscribers for 1998 to 1.7 million.

Offerings and stock actions

McKesson HBOC

(MCK) - Get Report

climbed 3 1/16 to 66 7/8 after saying more than 70 members of its senior management agreed to buy up to 1.2 million shares for a total of $76 million.

Perot Systems

(PER) - Get Report

gave back 7 13/16, or 11.8%, to 58 3/16 after four straight trading days of strong rallying following its $16 IPO. A couple of other tech newcomers were forced to return recent gains:

Pacific Internet

(PCNTF)

shed 12 1/8, or 25.5%, to 35 1/8 and

Modem Media.Poppe Tyson

(MMPT)

shed 5 1/4, or 11.6%, to 39 15/16.

Analyst actions

Excel Switching

(XLSW)

lifted 2 11/16, or 12.2%, to 24 11/16 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised it to strong buy from outperform.

Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

kicked up 2 1/4 to 51 after

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

lifted the stock to buy from long-term attractive, saying "major uncertainties seem to be behind the company."

Finish

Nokia

(NOKA)

vaulted 4 5/8 to 135 while Swedish

Ericsson

(ERICY)

tumbled 1/16 to 27 5/16 after Merrill Lynch upped both stocks to intermediate-term accumulate from neutral and to long-term buy from accumulate.

Novellus Systems

(NVLS)

brought in 3 1/16 to 69 3/4 after Merrill Lynch upgraded it to near-term buy from near-term accumulate.

Plantronics

(PLT) - Get Report

sloughed off 4, or 5.8%, to 65 1/4 after Merrill Lynch initiated coverage with an intermediate-term accumulate and a long-term buy.

Sierra Health

(SIE)

dwindled 1 1/16, or 6.6%, to 14 15/16 after

BT Alex. Brown

slashed it to buy from strong buy. The company also posted fourth-quarter earnings of 46 cents a share, in line with the nine-analyst forecast and 3 cents ahead of the year-ago figure.

Miscellany

AMR crashed 2 15/16 to 57 after its

American Airlines

unit canceled about 90 flights Saturday and around 200

yesterday because of an escalating dispute with its pilots union over the progress of the company's recent merger with

Reno Air

(RENO)

. American Airlines said it expects to cancel 360 more flights today. Reno Air added 1/32 to 7 23/32.

Micros-to-Mainframes

(MTMC)

swelled 2 3/8, or 37.3%, to an all-time high of 8 3/4 after the computer network company said it opened two e-commerce sites.

Microsoft flew up 5 3/16 to 165 1/4 after

The Seattle Times'

interactive edition reported the company may announce this week plans to reorganize, focusing on customer service and improving its presence on the Internet.

Monsanto

(MTC) - Get Report

skidded 2 3/8 to 45 13/16 after announcing it stopped trying to genetically engineer plants to make plastic and that it put its biodegradable plastic business up for sale.

Network Solutions

(NSOL)

lowered 22 7/8, or 11.6%, to 174 1/8 on jitters about a government-appointed panel that is expected to take a step toward breaking the company's hold on registering Internet-domain names and release guidelines for potential competitors.

Internet software company

Spyglass

(SPYG) - Get Report

dropped 3/4, or 6.2%, to 11 3/8 after announcing that Douglas Colbeth, president and CEO, will take a temporary medical leave, expected to last eight weeks. The company said Colbeth is taking the leave to treat a cardiac condition.