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Tech Industry

MIDDAY MARKETS: Double-witching and rate fears trouble techs

Double-witching was making stocks especially volatile as it mixed with interest-rate worries at midday Friday. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 13.43 to 4,535.49, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 125.89 to 10,388.68.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index dropped 4 to 500.08.

The Nasdaq joined the Dow in decline as concerns about interest rate hikes was compounded by the volatility of a "double witching" day, when stock index futures and options expire simultaneously.

Investors weren't cheered by the latest inflation data from a Consumer Price Index report that suggested inflation remains in check. The CPI rose 0.2 percent in January, in line with expectations. The trade deficit dropped to $25.5 billion in December, the Commerce Department reported. The number was below analyst expectations of a $26.4 billion gap. But the markets were stuck on what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested in his Humphrey-Hawkins testimony Thursday: interest rate hikes lie ahead.

Synopsys Inc. (Nasdaq: SNPS) dropped 19 percent, or 9 1/16 to 37 7/16 Friday as analysts hit shares with a slew of downgrades after the company announced the resignation of its chief financial officer.

Global Crossing Ltd. (Nasdaq; GBLX) was down 4 13/16 to 56 1/4 after it said it lost 20 cents a share in its fourth quarter, reversing last year's profit, but topping First Call's expected loss of 22 cents a share.

CNet Inc. (Nasdaq: CNET) was up 7 percent Friday after it received a couple of upgrades. CS First Boston is bullish on CNet Data Services.

Inforte (Nasdaq: INFT)flexedits market muscle ahead of Friday's IPO by pricing 2 million shares at $32 each, the top of its upwardly revised range.

GigaMedia (Nasdaq: GIGM), a provider of high-speed broadband Internet access over cable TV lines in Taiwan, priced at $27, also had yet to debut.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) was up 3/16 to 99 13/16 after a reiterated "buy" reading from Lehman Bros., who put a price target of $130 on the stock, and a reiterated "strong buy" rating from Credit Suisse First Boston.

The analysts said its new Windows 2000 product line is its first serious competitive offering in the UNIX-dominated enterprise market, and is likely to increase momentum for corporate desktops and WinTel services.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) was holding even at 110.

Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) fell 2 7/8 to 66 1/8, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) fell 2 9/16 to 160 5/8, and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) lost 7/8 to 52 1/8.