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MIDDAY MARKETS: Investors mull economic news, telecom earnings

Consumer confidence numbers and a batch of mixed telecommunications earnings reports kept technology stocks running in place at midday. The Nasdaq inched up 17.03 to 2,076.35, and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 52.05 to 10,584.28.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index rose 1 to 193.24.

Consumer confidence numbers slid sharply in April, dashing hopes that the slumping U.S. economy was on the road to recovery. The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said its broad gauge of consumer attitudes declined to 109.2 in April from a downwardly revised March reading of 116.9, its sixth tumble in seven months. That was much steeper than consensus forecasts for a fall to 112.

While the news indicates the economy is indeed troubled, interest-rate watchers may find the silver lining in it. The report makes it a little more likely that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again at its May 15 policy meeting

In earnings news, telecommunications giant AT&T (NYSE: T), up 35 cents to $22.33, said it topped earnings estimates for its first quarter, but that sales slumped and future earnings will most likely fall. AT&T Wireless (NYSE: AWE) was off 25 cents to $20.15 following its report.

Plagued by a decline in customer spending and a $2.7 billion restructuring charge, phone equipment maker Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU), up 45 cents to $9.65, reported that its revenue is slacking off while its loss widens.

Fiber-optic component giant JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU), off $2.18 to $22, said it plans to lay off 5,000 people, or 20 percent of its work force. The company added that its fourth-quarter earnings would fall well below current expectations and that it couldn't provide an outlook for its upcoming fiscal year.

Internet service provider EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK), up 56 cents to $11.46, saw its first-quarter losses slow compared to a year ago, as the number of customers of high-speed services grew 34 percent compared to the fourth quarter.

In business-to-business stocks, FreeMarkets (Nasdaq: FMKT) was off $1.16 to $9.13 following its report Monday night, while Commerce One (Nasdaq: CMRC) gained $1.36 to $10.02 on a deal with Microsoft.

Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 28 cents to $16.48, AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) gained 82 cents to $48.42 and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) was up 56 cents to $18.52.

Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) fell 59 cents to $16.74, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) dropped 12 cents to $30.20, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) was up 75 cents to $69 and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) gained 35 cents to $17.50.

ZDII staff and Reuters contributed to this roundup.