MARKET CLOSE: Techs battle back

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Investors did an about-face Wednesday, selling blue-chip issues in favor of beaten down tech issues. The Nasdaq composite rallied up 64 points to close at 2,491.41.

The Dow Jones industrial average gave back Tuesday's gains, falling 108 points to finish at 10,795.41.

After initially thinking Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan may have been hinting at another interest rate cut in his Senate testimony Tuesday, investors reconsidered. They now assume the economy may be strong enough to forestall a cut.

"The Nasdaq is trying to make a bottom, testing the lows of Jan. 2," the first day of trading this year, said Peter Canelo, U.S. investment strategist at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. "You are seeing this continuous interplay between the defensive and aggressive sectors."

Investors were extremely aggressive about chip-equipment stocks despite recent profit warnings and watered-down forecasts for the fiscal year.

Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) gained $5.56 to $46.81. Lam Research (LRCX) moved up $2.63 to $24.38 while KLA-Tencor (KLAC) and Novellus Systems (NVLS) shot up $6 and $5.19 a share, respectively.

JDS Uniphase (JDSU) moved up $2.75 to $41.25 after warning that it would fall short of analysts' estimates in its third quarter. Ciena (CIEN) gained $7.63 to $76.81, and Sycamore Networks (SCMR), which topped analysts' estimates in its latest quarter, rose $3.75 to $26.31.

TD Waterhouse Group (NYSE: TWE) trimmed 62 cents to $13.78 after it said its first-quarter profit fell 35 percent, though not as sharply as Wall Street had expected, as advertising costs and a recent slowdown in customer stock trading activity cut into growth.

Ameritrade Holding (Nasdaq: AMTD) closed off 3 cents to $8.94 after it agreed to buy software provider TradeCast for $67.3 million in stock, in a deal that expands Ameritrade's reach into the business-to-business market.

Among widely held PC stocks, Dell (DELL) gained 69 cents to $22.94, Compaq (CPQ) added 10 cents to $22.77, Gateway (GTW) picked up 11 cents to $19.76 and Apple Computer (AAPL) finished up 38 cents to $19.50.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) moved up 88 cents to $29.38. Lucent Technologies (LU) clipped 84 cents to $12.70 and Nortel Networks (NT) closed off 20 cents to $29.55.

Intel (INTC) muscled up $1.75 to $34.19 while Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and IBM (IBM) closed up 79 cents and $1.35 a share, respectively.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) shot up $1.56 to $26.69, breaking its recent slump. Microsoft (MSFT) tacked on 19 cents to $58.38, and Oracle (ORCL) picked up $2.44 to $25.