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MIDDAY MARKETS: Chip stocks lead techs

Semiconductor stocks enjoyed a surge at midday Thursday to push techs higher. Techs were active as the broader markets struggled for direction because Veteran's Day holiday and lack of economic news. The Nasdaq rose 19.51 to 3,175.47 and the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 36.08 to 10,561.66.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index leapt 11 to 393.72.

Merrill Lynch boosted its price targets on semiconductor makers, saying the current upswing in spending on computer chips has several more years to run. A whole host of chip stocks surged: Analog Devices (NYSE: ADI) rose 3 3/16 to 62 3/16, Applied Micro Circuits (Nasdaq: AMCC) jumped 4 1/8 to 89 3/8, Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM) gained 8 3/4 to 177 3/8, Conexant (Nasdaq: CNXT) hopped 3 13/16 to 62 3/8, Linear Tech (Nasdaq: LLTC) inched up 3/16 to 75 3/16, and LSI Logic (NYSE: LSI)rose 3 5/8 to 64 3/8.

PMC-Sierra (Nasdaq: PMCS) grew 2 9/16 to 109 1/4, STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM) crawled 5/16 to 109, Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) jumped 4 13/16 to 101 9/16 and Vitesse Semiconductor (Nasdaq: VTSS)leapt 3 13/16 to 51 15/16. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) edged ahead 3/4 to 79 3/4.

Internet firewall firm, SonicWall (Nasdaq: SNWL) made an impressive debut near midday Thursday as shares jumped 12 3/16 to 26 13/16. ASD Systems (Nasdaq: ASDS) also priced 5 million shares at $8 a piece, and Sage Inc. (Nasdaq: SAGI), which makes high performance processors used in digital displays, priced at $12. (Nasdaq: EBKR), a European offering, was up 11 7/8 to 29 7/8 in its IPO.

Meanwhile, Chartered Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR) was topping the Nasdaq on volume, rising 1 9/16 to 26 9/16 following its Tuesday IPO.

VeriSign, Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN) put on 7 7/8 to 160 1/8 after it issued a 2-for-1 stock split Thursday and announced a deal with a Swedish telecom company.

Digi International Inc. (Nasdaq: DGII), down 1/16 to 14 1/2, said that net income for the fourth quarter topped First Call's expectation, but revenue was flat. Corp. (Nasdaq: BYND) tumbled 12 percent Thursday after the stock was downgraded to a "hold" from a "buy" by CS First Boston, citing the squeeze from's entry into the software space, and a recent management exodus. Shares were down 1 1/4 to 9. Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 5/16 to 72 5/16, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) jumped 3/4 to 198 7/16 and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) lost 2 3/4 to 143 1/4. A new brand study from media research firm the Myers Group found that consumers ranked America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) ahead of all of the major television networks.

Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), up 1 1/4 to 68 15/16, said its CNN News Group plans to buy a $20 million on a minority equity stake in InterVu Inc. (Nasdaq: ITVU), up 9 1/8 to 72 11/16, or 14 percent.

Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) was up 7/8 to 42 5/16 ahead of its earnings to be released after the bell. Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) rose 5/16 to 22 5/16 and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) sank 1 3/8 to 95 5/8.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) was still going strong after its bullish earnings report, up 2 5/8 to 82 1/8. Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) rose 7/1 to 75 13/16.

Microsoft Corp (Nasdaq: MSFT) was up 2 3/8 to 89 1/2, still recovering after anti-trust worries set it back earlier in the week.