dismissed as premature reports that it would acquire

in a deal valued at more than $4 billion. Still,


reported that Yahoo! has hired a freelance camera crew for a news conference at 5 a.m. PST tomorrow. Ahead of the reports, which resulted in both stocks being halted, closed up 4 13/16, or 4%, at 118 3/16. Yahoo! closed down 3 15/16, or 2%, at 168 3/8.

Here's Your Hat

The layoffs have begun.

As expected,

America Online


today began the dreadful process of downsizing its newly merged workforce. "The mood is terrible," said one lucky


worker rehired by AOL who requested anonymity. "It's like a funeral."

Layoffs also began at AOL today. Last week, AOL president and chief operating officer Bob Pittman said Netscape and AOL each would lay off 350 to 500 workers in an attempt to streamline the new online colossus.

This morning, every Netscape employee was handed a letter by a manager. "There's a thin envelope if you made it and there's a thick envelope if you're gone," said one employee who requested anonymity. "And there are a lot of thick envelopes."

Yesterday there were rumblings of the impending gloom as a few Netscape managers pulled employees aside into conference rooms for one-on-one meetings. Managers were also given various scripts to guide them through the tortuous process. The scripts came in three different colors: one for employees who were rehired, one for transitional employees who will be let go in a few months and one for those who were let go.

But the pace picked up today. "This morning every conference room was filled," said one employee. The layoffs go into effect as of 5 p.m. PST today.

Still, some of the rehired workers complained of being kept in the dark. And some are waiting for more details before they sign their new contracts. Severance packages, say employees, run from three to nine months, depending on seniority.

There is another silver lining, however, for a few employees. Apparently, a handful of transitional Netscapers will partially vest their stock options before they have to leave the company in early summer. But that's small cause for celebration. "A lot of people are bummed out to be leaving one another and not the company," said one worker. "There's a lot of great people who worked here."


Spencer Ante

Riding Amazon's Coattails

(AMZN) - Get Report

continued to benefit from its announcement Monday that it was entering the online auction business. And while


(EBAY) - Get Report

has suffered from the threat that brings, a number of companies that will be merchants for Amazon's auction site were able to bask in's glow.

Among them were

Multiple Zones


, a direct market of Wintel and Mac-based computer products. It ratcheted up 5 15/16, or 53%, to close at 17 3/16.

Global Direct Mail


, which sells brand name and private label computer products and also manufactures personal computers, closed up 1 11/16, or 11%, at 16 3/4.

Insight Enterprises

(NSIT) - Get Report

, a seller of computer software and hardware, gained 2 1/8, or 9%, to close at 24 3/4. And

Sportsman's Guide


, a seller of outdoor equipment, clothing and footwear, flew up 1 1/16, or 18%, ending at 6 7/8.

Earnings Beat

Tech Data

(TECD) - Get Report

reported nearly identical numbers to ones it announced last month and was rewarded today after being punished in February. The computer equipment distributor closed 4 1/16 higher, or 22%, at 22 15/16.

Tech Data's earnings of 64 cents a share were above estimates of 61 cents to 62 cents. However, on Feb. 2 the company announced that earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter would be between 61 cents and 64 cents, short of analysts' estimates of 69 cents. That day, the stock closed more than 11 points lower at 20 5/16. Once the company issued the warning, analysts reduced their estimates. With Tech Data coming in at the high end of estimates, its stock soared today.

Contributing to the gains, though, was the company's announcement that a price war among technology distributors may be easing. That was enough to also help rival

Ingram Technology


to close up 3 13/16, or 20%, at 22 13/16.

Earnings warnings from both






hurt those stocks today. PeopleSoft closed down 15/16, or 6%, at 14 5/8. But that loss pales in comparison to Etec, which closed down 13 11/16, or 32%, at 29 7/16.