Midday Report: Consumer Confidence Boosts Techs, Nasdaq

A report that consumer confidence rose in March for the first time in sixmonths sent stocks higher across the board on Tuesday, with the NasdaqComposite Index gaining 48.72 to 1,967.21 by midday. Tech shares led theadvance.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence perked up inMarch after having dropped for five consecutive months.

Lynn Franco, director ofthe business group’s consumer research center, said consumers surveyed forthe report appeared more optimistic about the outlook for the next sixmonths, and about employment prospects.

“The recent weakness in the stock market has done little to dampen eitherconsumers’ assessment of present economic conditions or futureexpectations,” Franco said.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index rose 18.14 to 1,170.83 by midday, andthe Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 131.72 to 9,819.25.

Economists pay close attention to the Conference Board report becauseconsumer spending is the main driver of economic growth.

Techs Rise

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) rebounded after a Monday drop sparked by reports that chief executive officer JohnChambers predicted a prolonged economic downturn. As of midday, Cisco was trading at $18.38, up 50 cents.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) up $1.23 to $29.55, Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW), up 38 cents to $17.62, and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), up $1.63 to $57.69, had also gained by lunchtime.

The E-Commerce TimesIndex was up 2.18 percent, fueled by a 33 percent advance in Webvan (Nasdaq: WBVN).

Layoffs Mount

Nevertheless, profit warnings and layoff announcements from technologycompanies continued.

Vitesse Semiconductor (Nasdaq: VTSS) was down $4.50 at$29.44 after lowering its forecast for the current quarter’s results for thesecond time this month. Analysts at Credit Suisse First Boston and UBSPaine Webber reportedly downgraded Vitesse following the news.

News of job cuts at online employment firm HotJobs (Nasdaq: HOTJ) andInternet consultant Viant (Nasdaq: VIAN) sent shares of those companieslower in morning trading, though both had recovered by midday. HotJobs wasup 6 cents at $5.56 and Viant was unchanged at $2.44.

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