MIDDAY MARKETS: Microsoft and Cisco buoy techs

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Techs raced ahead at midday Thursday, as investors bought up big-name techs. The Nasdaq rose 72.23 to 4,176.04 and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 170.91 to 11,273.92.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index gained 2 to 554.79.

The Nasdaq's most active gainer was Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO, up 1.69 to 68.25. The company continued its spending spree, snapping up privately-held PixStream in a $369 million stock swap. Close behind was Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), up 2.44 to 42.38.

Shares of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) were also bumped up 1 to 71 after an analyst implied that the Supreme Court would soon decide whether to hear the company's antitrust suit.

Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU), down 0.06 to 42.94, said it will spin off its $8 billion enterprise networks unit, Avaya Inc., by paying a special dividend to shareholders.

Convergent Group Corporation (Nasdaq: CVGP) shot up 2.03 to 6.88, and was the second-most traded stock on the Nasdaq Thursday morning, after it announced contracts worth over $100 million signed during its quiet period.

Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM), up 0.13 to 14.75, said it will buy Pogo.com, an online games site aimed at the mass market, for an undisclosed amount.

MP3.com (Nasdaq: MPPP), down 0.22 to 8.22, has launched a marketing service for record labels, sending e-mails to fans touting new music.

NTT Communications, a unit of Japan's former state monopoly NTT Corp, will buy U.S. Internet service provider Verio Inc (Nasdaq: VRIO) for $5.5 billion, after the U.S. government gave the go-ahead a week ago. NTT Communications said on Thursday it completed its tender offer and, combined with the shares it already owns, would take control of about 95.6 percent of the outstanding shares of Verio's common stock.

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) fell 0.94 to 122.31 and AOL (NYSE: AOL) was unchanged at 59.13.

Among other leading tech issues: Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) rose 1.19 to 74.69, Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) gained 0.56 to 127.69 and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) rose 1.5 to 89.75.