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MIDDAY MARKETS: Techs absorb more economic news

Techs were jogging ahead of the Dow at midday Wednesday, chewing over economic reports along the way. The Nasdaq rose 11.14 to 2763.51, and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 59.53 to 11223.77.

Inter@ctive Week's @Net Index gained 2.55 to 298.91.

On the broader markets, suffering banking shares tugged the Dow down after a profit warning was issued by Bank One (NYSE: ONE), the fifth-largest U.S. bank holding company.

In economic news, orders for durable goods -- or items expected to last at least three years -- jumped to $204 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in July, the Commerce Department said. Putting them ahead by a strong 3.3 percent in July, above economists' expectations for a rise of 1 percent. The gain was powered by surging demand for industrial machines

A strong durable goods report usually reflects inflationary pressures, threatening markets that they may not be in the clear from another interest rate raise when the "neutral" Fed meets again October 5th.

July existing home sales were also released by the National Association of Realtors. Sales of existing homes were nudged their record high in July by higher mortgage rates, The seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales fell 3.9 percent during July to 5.41 million units but still beat economists' expectation of 5.31 million unit sales. Home sales, too, are not without their Fed angle. The level of existing home sales should continue to decline, in light of the Federal Reserve's decision Tuesday to raise short-term interest rates. Lenders generally move their rates in accordance with the federal funds rate.

Net2Phone Inc. (Nasdaq: NTOP) hopped up again Wednesday after it said that Sprint Corp., the No. 3 U.S. long distance phone company, would hold market trials of its technology and network for phone calls to Asia. Shares were up 5 7/8 to 59, or 11 percent.

iTurf Inc. (Nasdaq: TURF), up 11/16 to 14 7/8, posted second-quarter net loss Tuesday of $1.8 million, or 10 cents a share. Though its earnings make the grade compared to the loss of 13 cents a share expected by First Call, iTurf may be chasing its upstart competitor Alloy Online Inc. (Nasdaq: ALOY), down 1/2 to 14 1/4.

Newbridge Networks Corp. (NYSE: NN) added 7/16 to 28 after it skipped past analysts' estimates in its first quarter Tuesday, posting a profit of 18 cents a share, on sales of C$495 million. The network-equipment maker to earn 16 cents a share in the quarter. Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) rose 1 3/16 to 66 5/8, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) added 15/16 to 67 5/16, and 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) sunk 1/16 to 23 5/8.

Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) were holding even at 36 15/16, AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) added 5/8 to 47 1/4 and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) rose 1/4 to 74 1/4.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) climbed 2 1/4 to 94 7/16, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) slipped 1 7/16 to 81 11/16, and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD) sunk 5/16 to 18 7/16.

Compaq Computer Corp. upped the pricing competition ante again when it said it would cut up to 11 percent off the price of most of its Deskpro personal computers. Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) rose 1/16 to 23 9/16, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) dropped 1/16 to 121 15/16, Gateway Inc. (NYSE: GTW) grew 5/8 to 97 5/8, Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) added 19/32 to 46 31/32, and Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) sunk 3/16 to 60 3/16.

Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO) gained 2 7/16 to 155 3/8, Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) added 4 5/8 to 124 11/16, and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) was up 1 9/16 to 100 5/16. Other Net notables included: Lycos Inc. (Nasdaq: LCOS), down 1 1/8 to 43, Infoseek Corp. (Nasdaq: SEEK), up 1 5/16 to 32 11/16, Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM), up 3/8 to 42 1/16, and Mindspring (Nasdaq: MSPG) down 1/16 to 30 1/16. CMGi Inc. (Nasdaq: CMGI) rose 1 5/8 to 83 9/16.

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