This market has become quite the mighty mesmerist, its powers of obfuscation and mind control so strong that even

Barton Biggs

pronounced himself "befuddled" on TV this morning.

The strategist who said

yesterday that this remains a "traders' market" had his finger on a pretty obvious pulse. It takes a nimble trading mind to keep up with the gyrations in stocks these days; investors with a longer-term stance might just want to come back when it's over.

Ah, but it's never over, is it? Volatility is embossed and embroidered as the name of this market's game, so this week's action, and today's, can't surprise anyone.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, doing nothing to resolve poor Biggs' bewilderment, tumbled as much as 89.08 to 9747.31 before 9:50 a.m. EST but then chopped its way higher. The measure lately was down a mere 14 to 9822, paced by a recovery in

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

. Big Blue(-Chip) traded as low as 170 9/16 earlier but lately was up 3 1/8 to 174 7/16, leading the Dow's gainers.

The

not-so-broad

S&P 500

was off 4 to 1286, but the tech-infused

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 3 to 2438 behind strength in

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

.

Net stocks were stronger, with

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index up 7, or 1.1%, to 635 and

TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index

up 1, or 0.8%, to 113.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

continued to make that Blodget guy look good, up 2 7/8 to 142 5/8.

Elsewhere in tech, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was unchanged, the

Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35

was up 0.2% and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

was up 1.4%. Small-caps were firm as well, with the

Russell 2000

up 2 to 395.

Warren Epstein, head trader at

Richard A. Rosenblatt

, said he sensed hesitation on the part of his fellow Wall Streeters despite the moderate upswing. "My intuition tells me -- it's a guess -- they probably don't want to go home long into the weekend," he said. "I would think there might be a little skittishness this afternoon.

"You've got first of all the war," Epstein went on. "You've got earnings concerns, I guess. You've got some of the bullish comments by

Abby Joseph Cohen and others -- her target's only 10,300. We're at 9800 already. ... The upside seems to be a little more muted than the possibility for downside right now. And, of course, the breadth continues to be awful."

The

New York Stock Exchange's

awful breadth lately had decliners outpacing advancers 1,514 to 1,263 on 380 million shares.

Nasdaq Stock Market

losers were leading winners 1,796 to 1,710 on 457 million shares. Negative Nasdaq breadth with the Russell on the plus side strongly suggests that even among small-caps, it's the larger issues running higher.

New 52-week lows were ahead of new highs by 58 to 15 on the Big Board and by 66 to 40 on the Nasdaq.

Meanwhile, bonds had their rally caps on. The benchmark 30-year Treasury was up 15/32 to 95 19/32, its yield easing to 5.55%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early

Bond Focus.)

Carl Bhathena, vice president at

Holland Capital Management

in Chicago, sees hope for equities in continued steady bond performance. "As the long bond is right around 5.50, we think that is the top end of the range that we see," he said. "So there's room to rally here."

Bhathena noted that

last night's mutual-fund flow data from

AMG

showed big outflows from equity funds but solid inflows to bond funds. "People are realizing that they're underinvested on the fixed-income front," he said. "They're taking on a more defensive posture."

And they'll need it, Bhathena said, because any rally resulting from lower bond yields likely will be muffled by a "difficult profit environment,

in which top-line gains are rather skimpy."

Friday's Midday Movers

By Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

was losing 1 29/32 to 67 7/16, off an earlier low of 65 15/16, after the

Food and Drug Administration

said 28 people have died after taking the company's diabetes drug

Rezulin

. The federal agency is considering tighter restrictions on the drug, made by the company's

Parke-Davis

unit.

TheStreet.com

has

written

extensively about Rezulin and related matters.

Dow component

Goodyear

(GT) - Get Report

was down 2 3/8 to 49 1/2 after announcing it will invest $57 million, or C$87 million, to expand the radial tire operations at its Canadian passenger tire plant in Valleyfield, Quebec. The company said the expansion will increase production capacity by about 40% and add about 400 new jobs.

In other news:

Abington Bancorp

(ABBK)

was up 1 1/4, or 9.6%, to 14 1/4 after last night saying it will buy back up to 10% of its outstanding shares.

Applied Analytical

(AAII)

was down 5 1/16, or 29.8%, to 12 after

Morgan Keegan

downgraded it to market perform from outperform.

Comfort Systems USA

(FIX) - Get Report

was up 1 15/16, or 14.6%, to 15 3/16 after

Business Week's

Inside Wall Street column said the company may be a takeover target.

PolyMedica

(PLMD)

was up 2 7/16, or 40.2%, to 8 1/2 after the column quoted Ryan Rauch of

CIBC Oppenheimer

saying the stock has a compelling valuation and that the company is a "prime acquisition target for companies looking to enhance their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts." Finally,

Telescan

(TSCN)

was up 3 7/16, or 21.1%, to 19 7/8 after a bullish mention in the column.

Cort Business Services

(CBZ) - Get Report

, a rental furniture provider, was up 5 15/16, or 31.7%, to 22 1/16 after agreeing to be acquired by members of its management and an investment firm in a deal valued at $453 million, including the assumption of debt. The buyout group will pay $24 in cash and $2.50 in liquidation value of new preferred stock for each share of Cort.

CyberShop

(CYSP)

was up 2 3/4, or 25.3%, to 13 11/16 after launching a new auction Web site.

Deltek Systems

(DLTK)

was up 1 15/16, or 21.1%, to 11 1/8 after last night setting a 1 million-share repurchase plan.

General Cigar

(MPP)

was up 3/8 to 9 7/8 on word it's selling its mass-market cigar business to

Swedish Match

(SWMAY)

for $200 million in cash.

Hi/fn

(HIFN)

was up 4 5/8, or 13.9%, to 38 after the company sold 1.6 million shares and an unidentified shareholder sold 400,000 shares at $33 apiece in a 2 million-share offering.

Hutchinson Technology

(HTCH)

was down 1 3/4, or 7.6%, to 21 3/8 after last night saying it will temporarily cut 550 production jobs from its 8,500-person workforce. The company said it had been adding to its production crew, expecting significant order increases for delivery. But in the last week, the company said, customers significantly reduced their expected demand.

Kansas City Southern Industries

(KSU) - Get Report

was up 3, or 6%, to 53 1/8 after

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

started coverage with a strong buy and a price target of 61 a share.

Lexmark

(LXK)

5 3/4, or 6.1%, to 100 3/8 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upgraded the stock to strong buy from outperform.

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

was up 1 1/2 to 119 13/16, on pace for a new high, after

Merrill Lynch

upped its price target for the stock to 140 from 120 a share.

Valley Media

(VMIX)

was up 7 1/16, or 44.1%, to 23 1/16 after

J.P. Morgan

priced its 3.5 million-share IPO top range at $16 a share. The price range for the offering was raised to $15 to $16 from $12 to $14. Valley Media distributes music and video entertainment recordings

Earnings/revenue movers

Chronimed

(CHMD)

was down 1 15/32, or 21%, to 5 11/16 after last night warning it sees second-half earnings falling below estimates due to weaker revenue. The three-analyst forecast called for third-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, a repeat of the year-ago figure, and fourth-quarter earnings of 16 cents, vs. the year-ago 15 cents.

Inacom

(ICO)

was down 3 3/8, or 30.2%, to 7 3/4 after last night saying it sees a first-quarter loss of 10 cents to 20 cents a share. The six-analyst prediction called for earnings of 37 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 54 cents. The company blamed a revenue slowdown.

International Microcomputer Software

(IMSI)

was down 1 1/16, or 9.7%, to 10 after last night warning of a wider-than-expected third-quarter loss, around 70 cents to 75 cents a share. The company cited continuing investments in its online operations. The two-analyst view called for a loss 11 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 18 cents.

Verilink

(VRLK)

was down 1/2, or 17.4%, to 2 3/8 after last night saying it will record a $3.2 million charge in the third quarter, when it expects to report an operating loss. The charge is related to severance costs for a 13% cut in the company's workforce. The two-analyst forecast called for a quarter loss of 13 cents a share vs. the year-ago loss of 3 cents. Verilink also named Graham Pattison president and chief executive, succeeding Leigh Belden, who is retiring.