The markets were lately shaking off any unpleasantness in earnings news.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average and

Nasdaq Composite Index were lately firmly in the green after another round of

big names reported earnings after yesterday's closing bell and before this morning's opening.

PC giant

IBM

(IBM) - Get International Business Machines (IBM) Report

was the big winner today, chalking up some hefty gains after

posting earnings that were 2 cents better than consensus estimates. Big Blue lately was the second most actively traded stock on the

New York Stock Exchange, up 11.8% to $108.12. It was also lifting the Dow almost 75 points.

Related stocks were feeding off IBM's good news, with the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

up 7.3%.

Also,

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report

was bouncing 7.5% to $18. Last night, it reported its first loss in three years, though it managed to beat lowered estimates. The company was getting some investor thanks for its implementation of aggressive price-cutting, which has helped it lower inventories to a five-and-a-half-week supply -- pretty normal -- from the 11-week buildup in early December.

Alan Ackerman, market strategist at

Fahnestock

, said really, though, "with the exception of strength in IBM, the rest of the market appears to be a mixed bag."

He said there hasn't been a specific pattern to earnings so far, but he said

General Electric's

(GE) - Get General Electric Company (GE) Report

warnings of layoffs ahead is unsettling since it is a bellwether.

On the Dow,

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report

, which makes heavy machinery, beat estimates, but projected its 2001 sales would be flat because of a decline of 5% to 10% in North America construction equipment sales. The news pulled the stock down 6.6% to $41.69, and made it the blue-chip index's biggest drag.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq's muted rally was being led by such big-caps as

Intel

(INTC) - Get Intel Corporation (INTC) Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Sunworks, Inc. Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report

. Sun and Microsoft are scheduled to report earnings after the closing bell tonight.

One Comp component not helping out was

Vignette

(VIGN)

, which met fourth-quarter estimates, but lowered its outlook for the first quarter and full year. The Web management company said it would cut its workforce because of the slowdown in tech spending. The stock was 43.5% lower to $7.12.

Another major drag on the tech-heavy index was

Redback Networks

(RBAK)

. The company's fourth-quarter earnings

beat expectations. But the networker acknowleded that its gross margins are declining. The stock was off 15.7% to $41.12.

Market Internals

Breadth was just barely positive on moderate volume.

New York Stock Exchange: 1396 advancers, 1318 decliners, 681 million shares. 73 new 52-week highs, 4 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 1888 advancers, 1716 decliners, 1.29 billion shares. 43 new highs, 9 new lows.

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Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

  • Nortel Networks (NT) : 19.2 million shares.
  • IBM: 15.9 million shares.
  • Advanced Micro Devices: 11.5 million shares.

Nasdaq Most Actives

  • Intel: 47.4 million shares.
  • Vignette: 40.2 million shares.
  • Cisco: 35.1 million shares.

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Sector Watch

Oil sectors were suffering again. Oil stocks saw a sharp decline in prices yesterday after OPEC announced a production cut of 1.5 million barrels a day. The American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index was down 0.7%, while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

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was dropping 4.6%.

The California crisis continues and it's not looking any better for two of the state's largest utilities,

PG&E

(PCG) - Get PG&E Corporation Report

and

Edison International

(EIX) - Get Edison International Report

. The California utilities are threatening bankruptcy and defaulting on loans. They were given some extra time to pay delinquent bills by Gov. Davis last night. At the same time, the governor declared a state of emergency, ordering the state to buy power through the Department of Water Resources and authorizing rolling blackouts.

Bonds/Economy

Treasuries are trading higher after beginning the day slightly lower. The earlier weakness was in part attributable to stronger-than-expected housing and employment data. But this was later offset by dismal manufacturing news for the mid-Atlantic region, which painted a gloomier economic picture. The vigor in U.S. Treasuries remains in the longer-term instruments, the yields of which have lowered, though they remain above the levels of mid-December.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was up 30/32 to 104 24/32, lowering its yield to 5.118%.

In economic news,

initial jobless claims

(

definition |

chart |

source

), which are weekly benefits sought by the newly unemployed, fell to 306,000 in the week ended Jan. 13, from 343,000 in the previous week. The steep drop was much lower than expected, as economists polled by

Reuters

had actually forecast a rise to 360,000. Analysts attributed the plunge to seasonal factors, such as temporary holiday help or the fact that laid-off workers may be returning to work after staying home due to the weather.

Housing starts

(

definition |

chart |

source

) rose 0.3% to 1,575,000 units in December, while the number of building permits issued dropped 6.6%. The rise in new homes, primarily single-family units, is somewhat surprising considering the severe cold last month. But low mortgage interest rates, which have been declining for many weeks, provided the incentive. The four-week average, however, fell to 350,000 from 362,250, This is the first decrease since the first week of December.

The

Philadelphia Fed Index

(

definition |

chart |

source

) fell sharply, to -36.8 in January from -4.2 in December. This is its lowest reading since December 1990. The index, which monitors manufacturing activity in the economic district of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, signifies economic contraction when negative.

Finally, the

Consumer Comfort Index

(

definition |

chart ), which measures the confidence consumers retain in the economy, declined to 16% in the week ended Jan.14, from 23% the previous week. It is 12 points below its 12-month average and well below the period high of 38%.

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International

Major European markets were mixed at the end of their trading day, after earlier making some modest gains. As expected, the

European Central Bank

did not change interest rates when it met today.

London's

FTSE

was up 13 to 6210. Across the channel, Paris'

CAC-40

fell 24 to 5860. Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

-- still trading -- was down 14 to 6639.

The euro was trading at $0.9434. The euro has been slowly gaining in the past few weeks as the U.S. dollar weakens in the face of a slowing domestic economy. Fund managers are now forecasting that Europe will grow faster than the U.S. this year, according to a Merrill Lynch report.

Asian markets soared overnight, as optimism over the Nasdaq's rally yesterday led tech stocks there higher.

Tokyo's key

Nikkei 225

index rose for a fifth-straight session after hitting a 27-month low last Thursday. The index closed up 206.29, or 1.51%, to 13873.92.

Hong Kong's key

Hang Seng

index closed up 267.27, or 1.75%, to 15,528.75.

The greenback was lately trading at 117.98 yen.

For more on world stock markets, check out

TheStreet.com's

global indices information

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