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MIDDAY MARKETS: Techs sluggish

Microsoft was dragging techs down at midday Wednesday, as the flood of earnings failed to keep them out of the interest-rate doldrums. The Nasdaq fell 0.02 to 4,130.79, and the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 42.82 to 11,517.90.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index lost 1 to 562.94.

Microsoft Corp (Nasdaq: MSFT) lost 6 1/16 to 109 1/4 after it said Tuesday it earned 47 cents a share, beating estimates, but reported that some sales were sluggish. Oracle (ORCL) lost 15/16 to 54 11/16.

Microsoft led the general decline in techs, as news signaling the economy's strength counteracted the rush of earnings. Economic data on housing starts showed that December finished off the best year in the home-building market since 1986. The Commerce Department said housing starts jumped 7.1 percent to a 1.71 million annual rate last month, rebounding from a 2.7 percent decline to a 1.59-million rate the month before.

The Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" report will hit the market later Wednesday afternoon.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) lost 1 1/16 to 101 1/16 after its recent earnings successes and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) added 1/4 to 39 1/4 ahead of its earnings report. IBM (NYSE: IBM) was down 2 1/16 to 113 11/16 ahead of its earnings expected after Wednesday's bell.

Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS) rose 5 1/4 to 157 13/16 after it topped estimates Wednesday with fourth quarter operating earnings of $37.7 million, or 38 cents a share. The company also announced series of products and a 2-for-1 stock split.

Spyglass Inc. (Nasdaq: SPYG) fell 5/16 to 52 3/16 after it said it lost 4 cents a share in its first quarter fiscal 2000, scraping by First Call's predicted loss of 5 cents a share.

Bluefly, Inc. (Nasdaq: BFLY gained 7/16 to 12 3/4 after it said that total sales topped $4.2 million in the fourth quarter of 1999.

Beyond.com (Nasdaq: BYND) rose 5/16 to 8 1/4 after it said it will lay off around 20 percent of its workforce in a restructuring move that will shift the company's focus away from consumer sales.

Ask Jeeves, Inc. (Nasdaq: ASKJ) rose 7 9/16 to 103 1/2 after it said net loss for its fourth quarter was $15.2 million, or 56 cents a share, beating the loss of 63 cents a share predicted by First Call's consensus. Net loss for the year, $2.21 a share, was much wider than First Call's expected loss of $1.73 a share.

Web brokers E*Trade Group (Nasdaq: EGRP) lost 3/16 to 27 3/4 and DLJdirect (NYSE: DIR) gained 3/8 to 13 11/16 after they reported upside surprises, while Knight-Trimark (Nasdaq: NITE) lost 1/4 to 38 3/4 after it reported a better-than-expected profit.

Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 1 3/4 to 65 7/8, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) rose 16 3/16 to 357 3/8, and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL), which also reports earnings after the bell, rose 2 1/16 to 63 5/16.

Cisco Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) rose 7/16 to 112 7/16 after it said it will buy privately-held Altiga Networks and Compatible Systems for stock worth $567 million to enhance its New World VPN (Virtual Private Networks). Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) rose 1 9/16 to 52 1/16.

Exabyte Corp. (Nasdaq: EXBT) rose 4 percent Wednesday after it said net loss for its fouth quarter was 53 cents a share, right on target with First Call's consensus estimate. Shares in the network storage company were up 5/16 to 8.

Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) rose 1/4 to 42 5/16, Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) shed 3/8 to 30 1/2 and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) lost 1 9/16 to 114 3/16.