Today may be the first day of spring, but as far as the market is concerned winter ends at 2:15 p.m. EST when

Greenspan and Gang decide on the extent of any rate cut. The market is hoping for a 75

basis-point reduction in short-term rates to 4.75%, though many expect the

Federal Open Market Committee to cut rates by only half a percentage point to 5%.

Retailers were looking quite springlike this morning, and the

S&P Retail Index

rose 2.3%.

Merrill Lynch

analyst Peter Caruso issued a rather positive note saying, among other things, that there are positive signs for a handful of retailers that are less likely than others to miss earnings estimates.

In his report, Caruso cited companies like home improvement retailer

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

, electronics retailer

Best Buy

(BBY) - Get Report

and discounter

Family Dollar

(FDO)

, which today

reported second-quarter earnings in line with analysts' expectations.

Family Dollar said profits would grow at a double-digit pace in the second half of the fiscal year. The stock was recently down 0.5% to $25.22, while Lowe's was moving up 3.7% to $63.52. Best Buy gained 1.4% to $44.60.

TheStreet.com

yesterday reported that Best Buy is

discussing a possible alliance with e-tailer

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

.

Retail stocks in general have been hit hard by the downturn in consumer spending that has affected sales over the past several months. Data out this morning show that U.S. chain store sales fell for a fourth week in a row. Retailers are expected to benefit from rate cuts, since lower rates ease borrowing, thus encouraging spending.

Tech stocks were also looking upbeat.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index, or

the DOT, lately gained 2.2%. It was helped by

Ariba

(ARBA)

and

AOL-Time Warner

(AOL)

.

Financials were quiet ahead of the

Fed

decision. Lower rates increase borrowing activity, which is expected to help jump-start both the economy and the market. Trading volume has been light as the market has continued southward, and that's hurt many brokerages. The

Nasdaq Financial 100

was off 0.2% and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was essentially flat.

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

this morning posted

first-quarter results that beat analyst expectations, but fell 13% from a year ago.