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MIDDAY MARKETS: Microsoft, earnings boost techs

Microsoft's rosy outlooks and the latest round of solid earnings had techs smiling at midday. The Nasdaq rose 62.94 to 2,751.12, and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 94.66 to 10,299.59.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index rolled ahead 7 to 331.97.

On the economic front, news that the trade deficit shrank more than had been expected to $24.1 billion in August also reassured techs. It was the first time the trade deficit narrowed in four months in August as both imports and exports rose to records. August's trade deficit shrank a little less than the $24.7 billion deficit expected by economists. The prior month's deficit was revised downward to 24.9 billion from an originally reported $25.2 billion, according to the government's report. Renewed strength in Asia and continuing American hunger for imported goods suggested the economy is still in full swing.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) soared past its first quarter expectations and saw holiday buyers, Windows 2000 and early completion of Y2K projects boosting second quarter sales. Shares were up 4 11/16 to 91.

Sprint posted third quarter earnings were 41 cents a share, just under First Call's expectation of 42 cents a share. The company also announced results for its money-losing but fast growing PCS division. Shares in Sprint (NYSE: FON) were up 3/16 to 64. The PCS tracking stock (NYSE: PCS) was up 1/16 to 73 9/16. Merger partner MCI WorldCom (Nasdaq: WCOM) shares were up 9/16 to 73 1/8.

Bell Atlantic (NYSE: BEL) lost 5/8 to 63 5/16 after it said strong growth in its data and wireless services and demand for features such as call waiting helped it post a 10 percent increase in third-quarter profits, meeting Wall Street expectations. AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) sank 7/16 to 43 9/16 and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) slipped 13/16 to 86.

Merger couple MindSpring and EarthLink both posted better-than-expected earnings for the third quarter: MindSpring Enterprises, Inc. (Nasdaq: MSPG) slipped 1/16 to 26 5/8 and EarthLink Network, Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) was even at 42 3/4.

Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) rose 1 3/16 to 77 13/16. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) advanced 2 3/16 to 177 11/16 and America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) skipped up 2 15/16 to 118 3/16 ahead of its earnings. Excite@Home (Nasdaq: ATHM) jumped 1 1/4 to 41 7/8 after it metthird quarter estimates.

A round up of upside surprises includes Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB), up 2 7/16 to 57 15/16, Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE: SFE) even at 73 15/1, Spyglass Inc. (Nasdaq: SPYG) even at 10 1/4 and Covad Communications (Nasdaq: COVD), up 1 5/16 to 41 1/8.

EMC Corp. (Nasdaq: EMC), an enterprise storage company, lost 2 5/8 to 66 13/16 after it topped estimates.

Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) lost 2 3/16 to 233 3/4 after it reported a smaller-than-expected third-quarter loss as sales of its computer networking equipment surged 68 percent from the second quarter. Juniper, which makes high-speed routers, competes kingpin Cisco Systems Inc.(Nasdaq: CSCO) which tacked on 1 3/4 to 69 1/8.

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) gained 3 7/8 to 111 ahead of its earnings report. Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) gained 3 3/16 to 71 11/16 and Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) rose 1 9/16 to 40 1/16. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) was also up, 3 3/16 to 68 5/16, or 5 percent.

And amid all the earnings news it was easy to forget the day's IPOs. Bsquare (Nasdaq: BSQR) rose 9 7/16 to 24 7/16, or 63 percent while ZapMe!, (Nasdaq: IZAP) fell 27/32 to 10 5/32. Crossroads Systems (Nasdaq: CRDS) had yet to debut.