Thursday: Taking It Easy Before the Jobs Report

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Whole lot of nuthin'.

A thoroughly un-noteworthy day on Wall Street. Derailed tech shares tried to get back on track, but the locomotive has yet to be repaired. Retail issues got a boost on strong January sales. And the honeymoon continued for

Morgan Stanley

(MS:NYSE) and

Dean Witter, Discover

(DWD:NYSE).

Other than that, the day was about as exciting as a

George Michael

comeback tour. Even the fans were asleep.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

waffled as to whether to go higher or lower. It finally decided to jump 26.16 to 6773.06. The broader

Standard & Poor's 500

gave up 1.68 to 779.96. The technology-rich

Nasdaq Composite Index

fell 2.04 to 1346.40, and the

Russell 2000

toed the line at 365.49.

Analysts said the respite was just a breather. Tech shares -- and the rest of the market -- will resume rising after this year's run-up is digested.

"Tech stocks have a stop-start characteristic," says Joseph Battapaglia, chief investment strategist (and perennial bull) at

Gruntal & Co.

"I'm optimistic overall, and the surprises are going to be on the positive."

Battapaglia says the market may have enough steam to reach 7200.

Traders hope Thursday's

unemployment claims

-- which fell 12,000 to 325,000 -- don't presage Friday's

jobs report

. Too many employed Americans could suggest the

Federal Reserve Board

, which held rates steady Wednesday, might make a pre-emptive strike against inflation at its March meeting.

Concerns over the pace of the economy pushed the yield on the benchmark 30-year Treasury to 6.75%.

In the meantime, networking leader

Cisco Systems

(CSCO:Nasdaq) gained 1 to 63 7/8 after its CEO John Chambers made broadly optimistic comments at the

ComNet

conference in Washington, D.C. The stock had given up about 17% over the past 10 sessions.

3Com Corp.

(COMS:Nasdaq) slid 2 5/8 to 52 1/4.

Applied Materials

(AMAT:Nasdaq) rose 3 1/2 to 47 5/8 after Morgan Stanley upgraded the issue.

Computer retailers recovered.

Dell Computer

(DELL:Nasdaq) rose 1 1/8 to 63 1/8, while

Gateway 2000

(GATE:Nasdaq) rose 1 7/8 to 57 1/4.

AirTouch International

(AIT:NYSE) continued rising, jumping 1/2 to 59 1/4.

Intel

(INTC:Nasdaq) fell 4 1/4 to 152 15/16, while closely related

Microsoft

(MSFT:Nasdaq) slid 1 1/4 to 97 1/8.

Retail outlets got a boost from stronger-than-expected January sales. The

Salomon Brothers

same-store sales index rose 7.2%, much higher than the 1.7% rise last year.

Limited

(LTD:NYSE) was up 1/4 to 17 3/8, while

Gap

(GPS:NYSE) jumped 2 3/8 to 32 1/4. Now there'll be one on every corner.

Chain stores were swept up with the retail rally.

Wal-Mart

(WMT:NYSE) rose 1/2 to 23 5/8 and

Sears, Roebuck

(S:NYSE), which sired Dean Witter, Discover, leapt 1 1/4 to 49 3/4.

Left out:

AnnTaylor

(ANN:NYSE). The seller of fashionable women's wear, the subject of a favorable

Jan. 31 story in

The Street

, slipped 1 1/4 to 49 3/4 after it took a one-time charge to close nine stores.

U.S. Detergent

(USAD:Nasdaq) fell 13 1/4 to 20 3/8 after coming clean on its prospects for the fourth quarter. A

PaineWebber

downgrade to neutral from attractive helped clobber the stock.

Auto parts maker

Federal-Mogul

(FMO:NYSE) rose 7/8 to 24 3/8 after announcing a restructuring that will eliminate about 2,900 employees from its payroll. Bet the bond traders are happy.

And the honeymoon continues. Morgan Stanley rose 1 1/4 to 66 1/2 and Dean Witter, Discover jumped 3/8 to 41 as traders whispered sweet nothings in their ears.

By Andrew Morse

amorse@thestreet.com