MARKET CLOSE: Microsoft leads techs higher

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Microsoft helped lift technology stocks higher Wednesday as the Nasdaq composite picked up 51 points to close at 4,064.29. The Dow Jones industrial average moved up 63 points to close at 10,497.74.

Microsoft shot up 5 3/4 to 80 11/16 after Judge Thomas Jackson agreed to hold off on a series of business restrictions. It was also upgraded from a "hold" rating to a "buy" at CIBC World Markets.

"The firming is once again the case of one or two stocks as is the case on the downside," said Larry Rice, chief investment officer at Josephthal Lyon & Ross. "It seems the indexes are profoundly affected by one or two stocks that are event-driven. Today it is Microsoft."

Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), the second most actively traded stock, closed up 5/32 to 86 3/16 after it topped analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter. Sun Microsystems (SUNW) shares closed off 1 1/8 to 95 15/16.

Handspring (Nasdaq: HAND) moved up 6 15/16, or 35 percent, to 26 15/16 after it priced shares at $20 a share for its initial public offering.

China Unicom (NYSE: CHU) closed up 11 percent to 22 1/8 as the Beijing-based company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange.

Apple Computer (AAPL) picked up 5 to 55 5/8 after its 2-for-1 stock split kicked in. Dell Computer (DELL) added 1 7/16 to 50. Gateway (GTW) lost 9/16 to 59 7/8 and Compaq (CPQ) tacked on 11/16 to end at 28 1/16.

Virata (Nasdaq: VRTA) rallied up 9 1/4 to 59 1/4 after it announced strong revenue in its first quarter, the acquisition of a privately held company, and plans for a secondary offering.

Intel (INTC) gained 11/16 to 139 while Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and IBM (IBM) closed up 3 5/16 and 1 5/8 a share, respectively.

Speculation is mounting that the European Commission may block a $115 billion merger between U.S. carriers MCI WorldCom (Nasdaq: WCOM), down 1 3/8 to 40 5/16, and Sprint Corp (NYSE: FON), down 1 1/8 to 59, but the watchdog insisted on Wednesday such talk was premature.

Yahoo! (YHOO) slid 5 3/16 to 142 13/16 while America Online (AOL) and Amazon.com (AMZN) closed off 7/8 and 1/16 a share, respectively. eBay (EBAY) lost 9/16 to 61 3/4 and Lycos (LCOS) shed 4 7/8 to 54.