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SAN FRANCISCO -- "Alive!" the bull market cried this week as major averages posted solid gains and individual issues displayed signs of rambunctiousness. But while the

Dow Jones Industrial Average


Nasdaq Composite

each climbed near the top of recent trading ranges, neither was able to break on through to the other side.

For the week, the Dow rose 2.1%, the

S&P 500

gained 3.4%, while the Nasdaq jumped 5.3%.

The week began the same way as the

previous one had ended, with blue-chip stocks outperforming high-tech issues. A stronger-than-expected report on personal income and consumer spending quelled fears about the possibility of a recession, which inspired buying of economically sensitive stocks. Big gains by old school cyclicals such as


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helped the Dow rise 2.3%.


Lehman Brothers'

downgrade of

Cisco Systems

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sent the networking giant's stock down 5.2%, a big reason the Comp slid 2.7%.

The belief a recession isn't in the offing compelled buying of cyclical stocks Monday. Investors took the

next step Tuesday, concluding that no recession meant stocks with the highest potential growth rates -- tech stocks, mainly -- were thus doubly attractive.

That sentiment, plus anticipation of the end of mutual funds' tax-loss selling at October's end, sent the Comp soaring 5.6% while the

Nasdaq 100

leapt 6.5%. Better-than-expected earnings from



reinvigorated networking and optical-equipment makers from Cisco to

JDS Uniphase



PMC Sierra



Continued strength in financials such as

J.P. Morgan

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combined with the surging techs to help the Dow rise 1.25% and the S&P climb 2.2%.

The week's best session (for the bulls) was made possible not by a grant from some huge industrial company but by more signs of economic slowing. Reports that

consumer confidence

fell to its lowest level in a year while the

Chicago Purchasing Management Index

showed signs of contraction in the region's manufacturing activity reinvigorated those calling for the

Federal Reserve

to ease interest rates.

There were (and are) plenty of reasons to debate such a belief -- including Tuesday's report that new-home sales rose to a much-higher-than-expected 946,000 in September -- but as such views gained credence, they further enhanced the bullish mood.

Backdoor Rally


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index fell to its lowest level since December 1998, and a friendly

speech by Fed Chairman

Alan Greenspan

further enlivened the Fed-ease camp. But the market was in no mood to rally as November began.

Cautious comments from



, disappointing results from


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and downgrades of some chip-equipment makers by

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

sapped the momentum from the nascent tech rally, for one day at least. The Comp fell 1.1%. Blue-chip averages also slid, as downgrades of brokerage stocks sent financial stocks falling in tandem with the techs.

The Nasdaq rebounded in vigorous fashion Thursday, rising 2.9%, thanks to better-than-expected third-quarter productivity figures and a constructive conference call from


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. In addition to gains by traditional tech bellwethers, a host of recently moribund dot-coms and other tech names posted stellar gains, as did many

biotech stocks after







IDEC Pharmaceuticals


each received a dose of good news.



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tumbled 13% amid rumors -- denied by the company -- that some of its senior executives were planning to resign. To some, Oracle's whipsaw session presented further evidence of investors' jitters, even amid the clear desire to own four-lettered stocks. That desire, confirmed by mutual fund-inflow figures, sapped some of the interest in blue-chip names Thursday, leaving the Dow down 0.2% while the S&P rose a modest 0.5%.

Stronger-than-expected wage gains in Friday's

employment report

-- and the fact unemployment remains at 3.9% -- rattled some market players who'd been buying in anticipation of a Fed ease in the coming months. But better-than-expected earnings from


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helped keep the fire lighted under technology stocks.

Reflecting the dramatic volatility among individual issues,


tumbled 31% amid defections by senior executives and an ongoing rethinking of the company's prospects. But


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, which had tumbled 13% early in the week on concerns Intel would cut back the use of its technologies, rambled higher by 28.6% Friday after it announced major licensing agreements and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised its 2001 earnings estimate for the chipmaker from 45 cents a share to 55 cents.

So it seems the much-anticipated post-October rally got off to a decent start. But conflicting economic data, plus continued warnings and disappointments by a host of companies, left many market participants feeling uncertain, even if hopeful. The unease was heightened by anticipation of major events at the beginning of next week: namely, Cisco's earnings on Monday and the presidential election on Tuesday.

How they turn out will have a great deal to say about whether the rally continues in the week ahead.

Aaron L. Task writes daily for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to

Aaron L. Task.