Today's Market: Tech Back After Yesterday's Selloff; Comp Back Over 3400

Big names like Dell, Intel, IBM and Cisco were all feeling a lot better today.
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The market found pillars of strength in technology stocks this afternoon, as the

Nasdaq Composite Index boosted 72 to 3405 in recent action. Support from the

Dow Jones Industrial Average, meantime, was less pronounced. The blue-chip measure advanced a modest 10 to 10,910 in afternoon trading.

Today has been a turn-around day for many stocks that got a good battering yesterday.

Today's most notable turnaround comes in the semiconductor sector, which fell off sharply yesterday on the back of a revenue warning from specialty chipmaker

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

. Good news from

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

, which forecasted a rise in sales in 2001, has cooled jittery investors' heels.

The chip giant added that the fourth quarter remains on track, after a less-than-perfect third quarter. Memorably, Intel issued a revenue warning for its third quarter that hammered its stock. Shares of Intel lately boosted 4.9% to $47.

A

report from the

Semiconductor Industry Association

has also pumped up chip manufacturers at midday. According to the trade group's research, global semiconductor sales are expected to rise 37% this year to $205 billion -- the highest ever -- and could reach $319 billion by 2003. Those figures have sent the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

-- which closed down 3.8% yesterday -- up 2.8% today.

Today's tech rally has extended to the Net sector, where

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

is up 4.6%, and to PC manufacturers, where the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

is ahead by 2%.

Lower-cased "e" companies,

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

and

eToys

(ETYS)

, in addition to

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

, have emerged as today's leaders of the Internet pack. At the same time, boxmakers

Compaq

(CPQ)

and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

have both gained more than 4%.

Indeed, the Nasdaq may have reached a critical point today. "We're keying in on the 3400 level," said Todd Clark, head of listed trading at

W.R. Hambrecht

. "Reaching that number improves the technical underpinnings of the market."

On the Dow front, top mention goes to Intel,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, which have each contributed more than 13 points to the measure.

Cyclical stocks have brought weakness to the blue-chip index this afternoon.

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

, down 3.3% to $89.06,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

, off 4.5% to $27.75, and

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, behind 2.3% to $59.94, have all been a drag on the Dow today.

What should investors make of today's activity? In recent days, a market trend has been hard to find. But some say that better days are yet to come. "We've seen the bottom of the selloff," said Jim Benning, a trader at

BT Brokerage

. "The market is going to work its way higher into the New Year."

In economic news, Wall Street got a heads-up on productivity. Released at 8:30 a.m. EST, the government's

Productivity and Unit Labor Costs

report showed that the efficiency of U.S. workers rose 3.8% during the third quarter, more than the 3.1% expected, but less than in the second quarter. Unit labor costs, however, also grew faster-than-expected, showing a 2.5% gain. That's well above market expectations of a 1.5% increase and the previous quarter's 0.2% decline.

High productivity can allow stronger growth to coincide with sustainable levels of inflation -- a good thing. But high unit labor costs, which measure worker compensation as adjusted for changes in productivity, can accelerate inflation -- a bad thing.

Headlining tomorrow's economic events is the

October employment report, which contains information about both job and wage growth and is considered the single best measure of the health of the economy.

Sector Watch

Energy stocks have lost power in recent action, as oil prices have eased today. The

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

slipped 2.2%, the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

shed 2.5%, and the

Chicago Board Options Exchange Oil Index

lowered 2.6%

Defensive stocks among the drug and paper industries have fallen this afternoon. Drug giant

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

missed 1.3% to $88.56, and

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

declined 1.4% to $42.88. Paper giant and Dow component

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

shaved off 3.8% to $34.69.

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Bonds/Economy

Bond prices were rising moderately this afternoon. The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was up 2/16 to 100 3/32, yielding 5.736%.

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International

The major

European indices closed moderately lower.

The

FTSE 100

in London finished down 65.60 to 6392

The

CAC 40

in Paris dropped 8.74 to 6400.31, while the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt, still trading, was gaining 37.4 to 7096.47.

After economic data on Friday showed a slowing U.S. economy, the

battered euro continued to rise. It was lately at 0.8628.

Most Asian

equity markets ended Thursday mixed, as Taipei and Seoul booked gains and Tokyo finished in negative territory ahead of a three-day weekend.

Japanese investors remained on the sidelines, not wanting to stir things up too much before markets close Friday for a holiday. The

Nikkei 225

closed down 34.6 points, or 0.2%, at 14,837.8,

In Tokyo trading, the dollar traded down to 108.23 yen from the previous close of 109.16 yen. The greenback was lately at 108.34.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index fell 57.5, or 0.4%, to close at 15,291.5,

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