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MIDDAY MARKETS: Techs up on tame economic data

Techs rallied at midday Thursday, reassured by a mild PPI report. The Nasdaq rose 22.03 to 3,872.05, and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 15.20 to 11,566.30.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index leapt 12 to 550.29.

The day's economic news reassured investors, as the producer price index for December matched average forecasts, though strong December retail sales caused concerned among market strategists.

The results don't mean that markets are in the clear though. The Federal Reserve may just raise interest rates by just a quarter of a percentage point next month -- rather than the half point some have suggested.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) slipped 1/8 to 91 1/8 after rising all week in anticipation of the good quarterly results. Intel reports after the bell. Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) was off 1/4 to 36. ING Barings analyst Peter Wolff started coverage of AMD with a "strong buy" rating.

Elsewhere in the semiconductor sector, chip equipment maker KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC) rose 13/16 to 120 after it reported second quarter earnings of 52 cents a share on sales of $331 million. First Call expected a profit of 48 cents a share.

Etec Systems (Nasdaq: ETEC) rocketed 47 percent to 73 9/16 after Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) announced plans to buy Etec. Applied was off 5 13/16 to 121 1/4.

Solectron Corp. (NYSE: SLR) jumped 1 5/16 to 85 3/16 after it announced a 2-for-1 stock split and Merrill Lynch reiterated a "buy" rating.

Allied Riser Communications (Nasdaq:ARCC) added 3/16 to 21 after it reported a loss of 48 cents a share for its fourth quarter Thursday. Consensus was a loss of 58 cents a share.

Rational Software (Nasdaq: RATL)gained 3 3/8 to 54 15/16, or 7 percent, after it reported strong quarterly results, and CS First Boston upped its target on the stock to $71 from $52., Inc. (Nasdaq: MAIL) rose 1 1/2 to 16 5/8 after it said it expects fourth-quarter revenue to be about $6 million, 34 percent more than analysts expected.

NBC Internet Inc. (Nasdaq: NBCI) rose 3 1/4 to 79, after the online arm of General Electric Co.'s (NYSE: GE)'s NBC television network, said it plans to form a joint venture with Ltd. to create a Web gateway targeted at Pacific Rim countries. Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 7/16 to 64, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) lost 4 1/2 to 353 1/16 and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) rose 1 13/16 to 61 7/8.

Apple Computer Corp (Nasdaq: AAPL) shot up 11 percent Thursday after it got an upgrade from two analysts. Shares in the computer maker had settled down by midday, up 7 3/16 to 94 3/8, or 8 percent.

Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) rose 1 1/2 to 43 5/16, Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) lost 3/8 to 29 1/4 and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) sank 1 5/8 to 117 7/8.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) gained 1 1/16 to 104 7/8 and Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) jumped 7/16 to 55 13/16. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)lost 2 9/16 to 103 1/4.