By John J. Edwards III
Staff Reporter

The markets kept up the old inhale-exhale today, extending their breather from last week's powerful rise as earnings worries in tech applied heavy pressure.

The tech-laden

Nasdaq Composite Index

shrunk 10.68 to 1432.43, snapping a three-day record streak on weakness sparked by

Oracle's

(ORCL) - Get Report

merely in-line fourth-quarter earnings,

Gateway 2000's

(GTW:NYSE) poor second-quarter outlook and

Seagate's

(SEG)

second downward revision of expected fourth-quarter revenue this month. Nasdaq's bellwethers took a pounding, with

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

down 4 to 130 3/16,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

down 3 1/16 to 146 9/16 and

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

down 1 11/16 to 67.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

dropped for a third consecutive session, off 42.07 to 7718.71 behind sharp losses in

Chevron

(CHV)

,

Eastman Kodak

(EK)

,

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

and

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

. Healthy upswings from

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

and

Travelers

(TRV) - Get Report

couldn't compete.

Other market indices were mainly lower. The broad

S&P 500

lost 5.37 to 889.06 and the small-cap

Russell 2000

declined by an infinitesimal 0.09 to 392.46. The

Dow Jones Transportation Average

managed to rise 10.75 to 2738.31 and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

added 0.11 to 625.97.

New York Stock Exchange

decliners led advancers by 1,294 to 1,192 on volume of 496.1 million shares. On the Nasdaq, 2,260 decliners beat 1,961 advancers on 598.5 million shares.

The stock and bond markets pretty much ignored each other today, with the fixed-income side cheered by some oblique references to "weakness" in the

Federal Reserve's

Beige Book report. The yield on the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond eased to 6.68%.

Alan Ackerman, market strategist at

Fahnestock

, said he wasn't worried by the equity market's so-far-brief retrenchment. "When Olympians break one record after another in a short period of time, it's somewhat silly to think they'll keep up the pace without slowing down to take a breath," he said. "The urge to invest has slowed a bit, but that doesn't appear to be a permanent factor. One would expect that as stocks settle down a bit we could see another move to the upside."

Ackerman also was mostly unfazed by the tech disappointments. "It's worrisome for individual stocks," he said. "Bad news is like a torpedo; it can take a stock down. On the other hand, the long-term outlook for many tech stocks remains strong. It's not a time to run for the hills but a time to be doing more due diligence than ever before. Stock selection remains key."

Wednesday's market action

:

The American Stock Exchange announced that trading in its equity options and narrow-based index options will close at 4:02 p.m. EDT rather than 4:10 p.m. as of Monday. Broad-based index options will continue to close at 4:15 p.m. "We expect the 4:02 close to significantly diminish investor exposure to news-driven price movements that occur after regular equity trading has ceased," an AMEX official said in a release.

One tech stock that bucked the downward trend of its peers today was

Jabil Circuit

(JBIL)

, which rocketed 13 3/8 to an all-time high of 82 1/4 after late

yesterday reporting third-quarter earnings of 76 per share. That crushed the

First Call

10-analyst consensus estimate of 64 cents and the year-earlier 33 cents. Jabil provides customized electronics manufacturing services to original equipment manufacturers, and other companies in that business surged as well:

Sanmina

(SANM) - Get Report

rose 5 7/16 to an all-time high of 66 and

Solectron

(SLR)

rose 2 1/4 to an all-time high of 70 3/8.

H&R Block

(HRB) - Get Report

gave up 2 3/4 to 32 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.90 per share, well off First Call's six-analyst consensus of $2.02. The company, which earned $1.75 a year earlier, was hurt by the continued sluggishness of its 80.1%-owned

CompuServe

(CSRV)

unit. CompuServe edged up 1/16 to 10 1/8 despite reporting a fourth-quarter operating loss of $12.2 million that robbed H&R Block of 91 cents per share.

Applied Magnetics

(APM) - Get Report

dropped 2 1/8 to 23 3/4 after

Salomon Brothers

lowered its fiscal 1997 earnings estimate to $3.87 per share from $4.64. The First Call estimate, taken from two analysts, is $4.71.

Manny, Moe and ¿ Wayne? Blue-eyed devil

Wayne Huizenga

saw his

Republic Industries

(RWIN)

blast up 3 5/16 to 23 11/16 on news of a deal between Republic's

AutoNation USA

unit and

Pep Boys

(PBY) - Get Report

. Pep Boys will provide auto parts, accessories and service to AutoNation USA customers. Pep Boys jumped 2 1/2 to 33 3/8. In other Republic news,

Robert M. Cohen & Co.

initiated coverage with a buy rating, setting a 12-month price target of 36.

Westinghouse

(WX)

seems to want its soon-to-be-split-off industrial business to be not just an irrelevant mutt but a mangy old yard dog. The conglomerate announced that the powerful

Thermo King

refrigerated-transport unit will remain with the media side of the business, which will also retain Westinghouse's large pension liability. That's supposed to compensate the industrial side for the loss of Thermo King, but with nothing but barkers like power generation, energy systems and environmental services remaining there, it's hard to imagine a huge inflow of new investment. Westinghouse gained 3/8 to 22 3/8.

Rupert Murdoch

may bestride the media world like a colossus, but even the Aussie Annihilator has a bad day now and then. His

British Sky Broadcasting Group

(BSY)

and

GelTex

(GELX)

rallied after the companies announced the formation of a joint venture for the final development of a kidney-failure treatment, RenaGel. Genzyme's

Genyzme General

unit will pay GelTex a total of $27.5 million under the pact. GelTex gained 1 3/4 to 20 and Genzyme was up 1 15/16 to 25 55/64.

Visx

(VISX)

and

Summit Technology

(BEAM)

both benefited from the settlement of their U.S. and international patent-infringement suits. Visx agreed to pay Summit $4.5 million. Visx rose 2 1/4 to 24 3/16 and Summit added 7/16 to 7 3/16.

Olin

(OLN) - Get Report

fell 2 to 38 1/2 on a downgrade to outperform from strong buy at

Morgan Stanley

.

U.S. Rentals

(USR:NYSE) declined 1 3/8 to 26 1/8 after Salomon Brothers downgraded the stock to buy from strong buy on price.

WorldCom

(WCOM)

improved 9/16 to an all-time high of 31 1/2, continuing to benefit from reactions to an upbeat analyst meeting earlier in the week.

American Stores

(ASC) - Get Report

bounced 2 3/8 to an all-time high of 49 5/8 after

Goldman Sachs

initiated coverage and placed the stock on its recommended list.

Speaking of Goldman Sachs, pre-tax profit at the partnership was $610 million in the second quarter, down from the first quarter's $905 million pre-tax profit and last year's second-quarter pre-tax profit of $709 million. Still the partners should have a little something left in their pockets: pre-tax profits for the first half of the year hit a record $1.52 billion, up 19% from a year earlier.

Retailer

Cole National

(CNJ)

advanced 1 3/4 to an all-time high of 43 1/8 after the company filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

to offer 1.5 million new shares.

Andrx

(ADRX)

moved up 2 3/8 to a post-offering high of 30 after raising $22.4 million through a 1.33 million-share private placement.

Natural gas and oil exploration outfit

United Meridian

(UMC) - Get Report

added 1 5/8 to 33 5/8 after its board approved a $50 million boost in its capital budget, to $300 million.

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