Net Sector Heads Into Earnings Season on Strong Note

Standouts include many recent IPOs.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Internet sector was not immune to the holiday trading conditions that enveloped the market. But Net stocks were mostly firmer as the sector looks ahead to next week when earnings season begins.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index ended the day up 24.12, or 3.8%, at 664.27. For the week, the index gained close to 100 points.

Internet stocks soared following the

Federal Reserve's

announcement Wednesday that it had changed to a symmetric bias in conjunction with its 25-basis-point increase in the funds rate, leaving some to speculate that the Fed will not embark on a prolonged tightening cycle. Of course, that ignores what took place in 1994, when the Fed raised rates with a neutral stance.

But the sector also is looking ahead to next week when

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

kicks off the earnings season with its second-quarter report. It is expected to report earnings of 8 cents a share, according to

First Call

.

Yahoo! has rallied this week ahead of the report, and closed up 7/8, or 0.5%, at 178 1/8 today. In a note on Yahoo!'s earnings report,

Merrill Lynch

analyst

Henry Blodget

wrote that Yahoo! "usually beats consensus, and we would not be surprised to see it do so again." But he also notes that Yahoo! "usually trades off" after its release and it would not be a surprise if it did again.

Among the market standouts today was

RealNetworks

(RNWK) - Get Report

, which continued to benefit from Thursday's news that it had entered into an agreement to provide

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

WebTV

with technology to allow it to support the RealNetworks' RealAudio G2 format. Though the news helped rally RealNetworks by 13% on

Thursday, it continued to gain today, closing up 12 1/16, or 15%, at 89 15/16.

Onsale

(ONSL)

was involved in the rumor du jour. There was speculation that

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

could be interested in buying the online auctioneer and retailer. But as a recent story on

TheStreet.com

indicated, historically, Amazon.com has invested in private companies and if it expands into new areas, it usually expands alone. Onsale still closed up 6 5/8, or 36%, at 25 1/4. Amazon finished up 1 11/16, or 1%, at 124 1/16.

A number of other standouts were companies that have recently gone public.

GoTo.com

(GOTO)

, an Internet search engine play, continued to benefit from Thursday's news that it would be the leading search provider for

Netscape's Net Search

program. It closed up 14, or 38%, at 50 1/2.

And

Stamp.com

(STMP) - Get Report

closed sharply higher after the company said it had entered an agreement with

MySoftware

(MYSW)

to use Stamp.com postage technology in its small business software. Stamp.com closed up 11 1/4, or 51%, at 33 1/2, while MySoftware ended up 3 1/2, or 22%, at 19 1/2.

Finally,

E-Loan

(EELN)

, which went public on Tuesday, closed up 11 5/16, or 32%, at 46 13/16.