SAN FRANCISCO -- Tech stocks opened higher, then gave back most of their gains, retreating following a forecast of a 5%-10% stock-market correction by Prudential Securities chief technical analyst Ralph Acampora. But chip-equipment makers got a boost from upgrades by Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Merrill raised its short-term ratings for the sector and increased earnings estimates for most companies. According to the report, January semi-equipment orders were "well ahead of expectations and look like they will accelerate through the year." In addition, bookings are expected to "kick into high gear by the fourth quarter of 1999, when capacity buys become a larger part of the mix."

"I'm not projecting the stocks are going to double again," wrote Mark Fitzgerald, vice president and semiconductor analyst with Merrill. But "there is significant upside of 25% to 35% over the next 12 months, depending on the companies."

Raised to short-term buy from accumulate by Merrill were

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

,

Cymer Laser

(CYMI)

,

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

and

Novellus Systems

(NVLS)

. Morgan Stanley upgraded Applied Materials and KLA-Tencor to strong buy from neutral.

Applied Materials was up 2 11/16 at 63 3/8, while KLA-Tencor was up 2 3/4 at 56 5/8. Cymer Laser was up 1 13/16 at 26 15/16.

Merrill also raised its ratings on

Advanced Energy

(AEIS) - Get Report

,

PRI Automation

(PRIA)

,

Lam Research

(LRCX) - Get Report

and

Silicon Valley Group

(SVGI)

to short-term accumulate.

Big Boys Bounce Back

A couple of big names that took big hits last week,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

, were bouncing back early on.

Intel was up 1 3/16 at 131 7/16, though it was off its highs. The company is expected to cut prices on its Celeron chips today. Rival

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

was little changed.

And there are reports that Microsoft, which received some bad press last week in its battle with the

Justice Department

, may split into four groups. Microsoft also is attempting to bring back former executive Brad Silverberg to help with an overhaul, according to the

Seattle Times

. Microsoft was up 3 3/8 at 163 3/8.

CMPL's Name Game

At the

NationsBanc Montgomery Securities

conference last week,

Computer Literacy

(CMPL)

joked about a to-be-announced new name and gave this reporter hints about what it might be. So being the sleuth that I am -- and with a reader's suggestion -- I decided to check out what names the company has registered with the

InterNIC

, the domain registration system.

Well, it owns some doosies. Company CEO Chris MacAskill wouldn't divulge the name because porn sites might try to buy up some of the misspellings. But he did say that it's eight letters long, and that it's a bit off the wall. One of my favorites among the domains owned by the company is Fatbrain.com. Some of the possible alternatives also registered by Computer Literacy include: Phatbrain.com; Hotbrain.com, and my personal favorite: Fatbrian.com.

"Wow, that sure doesn't sound like a keeper," quipped the email tipster referring to Fatbrain.com. Maybe not to you, but in the world of Internet companies frantically trying to be hip, nothing would surprise me.

--

Suzanne Galante