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MIDDAY MARKETS: Cisco fuels tech gains

Economic news created some mixed results on the broader markets, but techs gained on an upside earnings surprise from Cisco. The Nasdaq rose 49.44 to 3,174.48 and the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 11.32 to 10,606.00.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index leapt 8 to 401.63.

The inflation predictor failed to give a clear reading -- the Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures inflation at the wholesale level, fell 0.1 percent in October. But a slight rise in the core rate sparked worries of an interest-rate increase. The core rate, which excludes volatile food and energy prices rose 0.3 percent, reflecting an increase in car prices, according to the report released by the Labor Department.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) jumped 4 3/4 to 79 led the Nasdaq higher following its better-than-expected earnings report. The company was also optimistic about its outlook for future quarters. SG Cowen and Banc of America raised their price targets on Cisco to $90 from $80.

Other networking issues gained on the Cisco news. Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) gained 1 1/4 to 74 1/4, Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT) was up 2 to 69 13/16, 3Com (Nasdaq: COMS) added 1 7/16 to 32 15/16.

Hard drive stocks also rose after Banc of America Securities analyst Paul Fox upgraded his rating on the shares of three hard drive makers to "buy" from "market perform," based on a supply and demand imbalance for desktop computers. Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: SEG) was up 2 1/8 to 36 7/8, or 6 percent, Quantum Corp.-Hard Disk Drive Group (NYSE: HDD) was up 1 1/2 to 7 7/8, or 24 percent, and Maxtor Corp.(Nasdaq: MXTR) was up 1 13/32 to 7 11/32, or 24 percent. Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) was up 13/16 to 4 1/16, or 25 percent, though it received no upgrade.

Investors looking for a back-door e-commerce stock drove United Parcel Service's (NYSE: UPS) first day gains. Shares of UPS surged 33 percent to 66 7/8.

Expedia Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPE) had yet to debut its 5.2 million shares at $14 apiece. The offering is a spin-off of Mocrosoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT), down 5/8 to 88 1/4, travel services. Charter Communication (Nasdaq: CHTR) was trading the most shares on the Nasdaq, and rose 9 percent, or 1 15/16 to 24 11/16 the day following its IPO.

Avid Technology (Nasdaq: AVID) was up 1 to 12 1/2, after it announced a restructuring plan Wednesday which will result in a charge around $9 million as the company refocuses its ailing business on the Internet.

Convergent Communications, Inc. (Nasdaq: CONV), tumbled 14 percent, or 1 7/8 to 11 7/8 Wednesday after missing third quarter estimates by a nickel. The company lost $1.06 a share.

Netcentives Inc. (Nasdaq: NCNT) dropped 7/8 to 19 ? after it reported loss for its third quarter was 48 cents a share, beating First Call's expected loss of 52 cents a share on strong revenue growth.

LookSmart Ltd (Nasdaq: LOOK) blasted up 32 percent, or 8 9/16 to 35 5/16 after it announced a $200 million in a global Internet joint venture with British Telecommunications Plc.

In its latest move beyond simple online retailing, leading Internet merchant Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) has allied with Web-based credit card issuer NextCard Inc. (Nasdaq: NXCD). NextCard bounded ahead 18 1/2 to 50 1/8, or 58 percent.

Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 2 5/8 to 73 7/16, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) jumped 3 3/16 to 197 3/4, and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) grew 1 3/8 to 147 3/8.

Among other tech bellwethers, Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) rose 1 1/16 to 41 5/8, Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) rose 1 5/8 to 22 3/8 and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) rose 2 1/16 to 95 11/16. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) rose 1/2 to 80 9/16.