Midday Report: Nasdaq Claws Into Positive Territory

Technology stocks fought to avoid dragging the Nasdaq Composite Index lower for the third consecutive session on Friday, with the tech-heavy benchmark inching up 4.75 to 1,825.32 by midday.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL) were among the stocks standing in the way of a comeback. Intel was down 63 U.S. cents to $25.84, while Dell had fallen $1.06 to $25.88. Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), however, was up 13 cents to $15.38.

Blue chips held on to slim gains, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 34.63 to 9,833.69. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was up 2.47 at 1,150.42.

Mixed Signals

The day’s economic news sent mixed signals to investors. The National Association of Purchasing Management’s Chicago region said that its index of manufacturing activity fell in March to its lowest level since the 1982 recession. However, the closely watched University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment reportedly showed a slight increase for February.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, meanwhile, said that American incomes and spending edged higher in February.

The E-Commerce Times Index was up 0.57 percent at midday. eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) was up $2.19 at $36.31 after launching three new Web sites overseas. The online auctioneer said it expanded into Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Tech Warnings

Meanwhile, the bad news from technology companies continued. The once high-flying Blue Martini Software (Nasdaq: BLUE) fell 25 cents to $2.31 after lowering its outlook for the first quarter ending March 31st and announcing plans to cut jobs.

“The economic slowdown and the uncertain business climate in the industries we target has resulted in the closure of fewer licensing contracts during the quarter than previously anticipated,” said Blue Martini president and chief executive officer Monte Zweben.

Versata (Nasdaq: VATA) fell 75 cents to 28 cents after the e-business software maker said it will lay off 30 percent of its employees, take a $5.5 million to $7 million charge to first-quarter results, and delay filing its 2000 annual report with securities regulators pending an accounting review.

BEA, RealNetworks Higher

BEA Systems (Nasdaq: BEAS), meanwhile, rose $2.38 to $28.56 following reports that its chief executive officer intends to stick by previous financial forecasts.

Corel (Nasdaq: CORL) gained 13 cents to $2.44 after the maker of WordPerfect and other software reported a quarterly profit.

RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK) was also higher, picking up 59 cents to $6.97 on a Wall Street Journal report that it is in talks with three major record companies about a possible license agreement.

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