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MIDDAY MARKETS: Techs take a breather

The Nasdaq was running out of steam at midday Friday, as good earnings and fresh IPOs failed to extend its climb into record territory. The Nasdaq fell 43.58 to 4,442.05, and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 36.30 to 10607.33

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index fell 7 to 598.68.

Investors weren't even impressed with economic news that suggested the economy is beginning to slow; the Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 percent in January, far lower than 0.5 percent forecasted by analysts. Excluding autos, sales fell 0.3 percent, the largest drop since April 1997. Analysts said the data was misleading due to upward revisions to previous months.

Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) lost 39/64 to 38 3/16 after it met reduced estimates in its fourth quarter and said it expects flat growth on the bottom line in the first quarter. Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) gained 3/4 to 25 3/4 and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) lost 2 11/16 to 116 7/16.

In other earnings news, Learning Tree International, Inc. (Nasdaq: LTRE) grew 31 percent Friday after it said net income for its first quarter was 35 cents a share, toppling First Call's prediction of 22 cents a share. Shares were up 7 to 31.

Elcom International, Inc. (Nasdaq: ELCO) lost 2 7/16 to 22 9/16 after it said fourth quarter and fiscal year revenue had been hurt by marketing costs, restructuring, and new guidelines that restricted sales.

On the IPO front, e-tailer Pets.com (Nasdaq: IPET)'s turned out to be a dog. Near midday, Pets.com was at 11 1/16, barely above the IPO price of $11.

Other offerings had yet to debut; Internet services company Lante Corp. (Nasdaq: LNTE) priced 4 million shares at $20 for trading Friday, above their raised range of $17-$19 per share. WebMethods (Nasdaq: WEBM), an XML-based business-to-business software company, priced its IPO at $35 after it upped its price range to $28 to $30 a share. Shares will trade Friday.

MCI WorldCom (Nasdaq: WCOM) rose 15/16 to 50 3/4 following yesterday's earnings news, and an announcement the company could create a tracking stock for its Net unit.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) fell 5 3/8 to 100 5/8.

Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 2 9/16 to 78 3/4, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) lost 5 3/4 to 359 1/4 and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) fell 3/8 to 57 7/8.