Internet Stocks Still in Holiday Mode

Online revenues are expected to keep rising, which may explain the latest rally.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Internet sector has picked up where it left off before the long holiday weekend, and news from a few companies today has not dulled the unabated enthusiasm in the sector.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 22, or 5.1%, to 452, on pace for an all-time high.

Shares of

E*Trade

(EGRP)

and other online brokerage firms are soaring after news that the new

Destination E*Trade

site had signed up more than 500,000 members since September. E*Trade was up 13 1/8, or 29.2%, to 58 1/2, more than doubling in price from Dec. 18, when it traded around 27. Destination E*Trade is a free service that offers real-time stock quotes, news, charts and research, market commentary and earnings estimates. The company expects those who sign up for Destination E*Trade will eventually open brokerage accounts.

Elsewhere,

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

was up 5 1/16, or 17.5%, to 34 1/8, and

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

was up 6 3/4, or 11.2%, to 67 1/8.

Shares of

SkyMall

(SKYM)

were up 26 3/4, or 211.8%, to 39 3/8 and have more than doubled after the nation's largest in-flight catalog retailer reported it expects online sales to increase sevenfold for fiscal 1998. The company said Internet sales rose to $1 million in the fourth quarter vs. $300,000 for the same period last year.

SkyMall is just the latest company to report positive Internet sales, though it's worth noting that it didn't take much for the company to report a huge increase vs. last year, when sales on the Internet were relatively small. Still, online sales are exceeding analysts' expectations, and a report from

Boston Consulting Group

and

shop.org

shows the great potential in Internet sales that has fueled the latest rally.

The report showed online revenue rose 230% over last year. The report was based on sales from 17 online merchants. Though no dollar figure was given, Boston Consulting has said online sales will reach $13 billion for 1998.

Online sales helped propel overall holiday sales higher by 3.5%, according to

The Wall Street Journal

, compared with a 4.7% increase last year and weaker than the 5.0% increase retailers were anticipating.

"The numbers are very gratifying, at least as good as expected," says Urlic Weil, senior tech analyst at

Friedman Billing Ramsey

. "It points to the fact that Internet merchandise as an alternative to catalog shopping and going to the mall is the wave of the future."

Weil says that the recent run-up in these Internet stocks is justified based on future expectations for sales. "People are willing to gamble that the revolution is in the making, and three or four years down the road, this will become a tsunami," he says.