Midday Report: Nasdaq Edges Higher Despite Tech Warnings

Nasdaq stocks held on to slim gains at midday Wednesday, erasing morning losses even as warnings about poor quarterly results from technology companies continued unabated.

At midday, the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 15.25 at 1,688.25, after closing Tuesday at its lowest level since 1998. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 90.36 at 9,576.07, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was ahead 8.44 at 1,114.90.

Among the most active Nasdaq issues, Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) were all higher, while Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) and Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL) were lower.

Cisco was up 44 U.S. cents to $14.19, Sun had improved 38 cents to $14.46 and Microsoft had jumped $1.31 to $54.69. Meanwhile, Intel was down 94 cents to $24.06 and Dell had fallen 25 cents to $23.19.

More Warnings

Meanwhile, more software companies came forward with announcements that profits for the quarter just ended will not live up to expectations. Broadbase Software (Nasdaq: BBSW), Rational Software (Nasdaq: RATL) and Agile Software (Nasdaq: AGIL) all lowered their outlooks for quarterly results.

Tech company layoff announcements also continued to trickle in. Software makers Onyx Software (Nasdaq: ONXS), Firepond (Nasdaq: FIRE) and Kana Communications (Nasdaq: FIRE) all reportedly cut workers.

Broken Brokerages

Online brokerage Knight Trading (Nasdaq: NITE) fell after warning that a slowdown in stock-market activity will mean first-quarter earnings of 18 to 20 cents a share, rather than the 32 to 40 cents originally predicted.

Knight chairman, president and chief executive officer Kenneth D. Pasternak said that market conditions during the quarter were the toughest since the company’s founding in 1995. Moreover, he said, trading patterns indicate that “self-directed” investors remain out of the actions during “this bear market.”

Knight competitor Ameritrade (Nasdaq: AMTD) was down 16 cents at $3.84 after saying it will begin charging fees for low-balance and low-activity accounts, and for issuing statements by mail instead of electronically.

E-Commerce Edges Higher

The E-Commerce Times Index was up 2.06 percent at midday, with Egghead (Nasdaq: EGGS), PetSmart (Nasdaq: PETM) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) all registering gains. Webvan (Nasdaq: WBVN), Cyberian Outpost (Nasdaq: COOL) and 1-800-FLOWERS (Nasdaq: FLWS) were all lower.

In economic news, the National Association of Purchasing Management said that its index of non-manufacturing activity fell in March, a sign that the economic slowdown is continuing.

U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan spoke before a congressional panel on international trade, but made no mention of interest rates.

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