MIDDAY MARKETS: Rocky trading for techs

3 min read

While unknown stocks topped the Nasdaq charts, chip stocks plunged and online brokerages rallied in mixed trading at midday Friday. The Nasdaq lost 15.75 to 3181.54, and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.95 to 10,629.25.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index leapt 7 to 407.04.

The Nasdaq lost ground despite the day's good economic news, which showed worker productivity rose at a faster-than-expected pace in the third quarter. The rise suggests tame inflation. Retail sales also came in flat for October.

Third-most active on the Nasdaq at midday was little-known Centura Software Corp. (Nasdaq: CNTR), which blasted up 93 percent on heavy volume on news it is working on products for information appliances with SAP Labs Tokyo. Shares were up 1 31/32 to 4 3/32.

Shares of ScanSoft Inc. (Nasdaq: SSFT), up 3 31/32 to 12 3/4, was another little-known company high on volume. Shares were up another 50 percent after the stock doubled Thursday on news one of its products will be bundled with a Hewlett-Packard Co (NYSE:HWP) technology. HP shares were even at 24 11/16.

After enjoying an upgrade-fuelled rally yesterday, chip-makers sagged. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) lost 3 5/8 to 75 13/16 after Merrill Lynch analyst Joe Osha cut his rating on the chip maker to "near-term accumulate" from "buy." Other hardware stocks, such as rival Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) lost 1 7/8 to 26 3/8 and Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS), which licenses designs to Intel, fell 2 ? to 86 1/4. Micron Technology (NYSE: MU) tumbled 2 5/8 to 72 7/8.

Meahwhile, online brokerages surged after Hambrecht & Quist analyst Greg Smith said smoking November Nasdaq volume is fueling gains. E*Trade Group Inc. (Nasdaq:EGRP) rose 2 7/8 to 33 13/16, TD Waterhouse Group Inc. (NYSE:TWE) jumped 1 1/8 to 15 3/4 and Charles Schwab Corp. (NYSE:SCH) jumped 3 3/16 to 40 3/4.

Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) fell 1 1/2 to 41 15/16 despite its earnings report that hit analysts' estimates. Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) lost 11/16 to 21 9/16 and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) sank 1 1/16 to 93 15/16.

Another hot networking equipment company, Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR), blasted up 323 percent, or 61 3/8 to 80 3/8. Somera Communications, Inc. (Nasdaq: SMRA) priced shares at $12 each Friday, but had yet to begin trading.

Swedish telecoms group Ericsson, the world's largest maker of mobile infrastructure systems, said it would not comment on media reports it would buy Canada's Newbridge Networks (NYSE: NN), up 2 5/16 to 20 9/16.

Healtheon (Nasdaq: HLTH) lost 3 7/8 to 38 9/16, or 9 percent, after it reported its last solo quarter of loss as shareholders approved its merger with WebMD.

Security software maker RSA Security Inc. (Nasdaq: RSAS) rose 2 1/16 to 39 7/8 after it said Red Hat Inc. (Nasdaq: RHAT), down 3 ? to 100, will license RSA technology for use in one of the Linux software packages it offers.

Microsoft Corp (Nasdaq: MSFT) lost 1 ? to 88 3/8.

Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) was even at 73, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) jumped 3 3/4 to 196 3/8, and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) grew 4 1/8 to 146 3/8.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) lost 1 5/16 to 82 7/16 and Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) lost 2 3/16 to 73 3/4.