Midday Report: Techs Push Nasdaq Toward Four-Day Winning Streak

Surging technology stocks put the Nasdaq Composite Index on the road to a fourth straight day of advances Wednesday, as investors snapped up shares of beaten-down companies on the belief that the worst is past.

At midday, the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was up 17.55 at 2,185.79, led by gains in Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL).

Cisco was up US$1.26 at $19.06 following reports that Morgan Stanley analyst Christopher Stix said the market for Cisco products in North America is looking up, with corporations more likely to start spending money on networking equipment.

Stix reportedly kept his neutral rating on Cisco shares, however, saying they remain expensive.

Cisco competitor Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR) was also among the most active Nasdaq issues, gaining $1.80 to $65.05.

Dow, S&P Retreat

The less technology-sensitive stock indexes were lower at midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 60.96 at 10,837.38, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was down 4.85 at 1,261.59.

The E-Commerce Times Index was little changed, registering a 0.3 percent drop at midday. Among big-name e-tailers, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) was up 7 cents at $16.97, Barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq: BNBN) was up 6 cents at $2.25, and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) was down $1.89 at $52.42.

Priceline Flies

Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) gained for the second day in a row, rising 49 cents to $7.08, after topping analyst estimates in the first quarter and predicting a profit for the second quarter.

A shift in focus to the company’s core travel business, along with augmented customer service, contributed to the improvement, said president and chief executive officer Daniel Schulman.

Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget reportedly raised his long-term rating on Priceline shares from neutral to accumulate after the report. On Tuesday, an upgrade from Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto provided Priceline shares a lift.

CNET Falls, i2 Rises

CNET Networks (Nasdaq: CNET), a provider of online information and services to the technology industry, fell 76 cents to $11.97 by midday after reporting a quarterly loss and revenue drop, due in part to a weak advertising market.

Meanwhile, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce software maker i2 Technologies (Nasdaq: ITWO) rose $1.95 to $19.72, after naming its president, Greg Brady, to the post of chief executive officer.

The day’s economic news had little effect on the stock market. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported a 1.8 percent rise in factory orders during March, due to increases in orders for airplanes and ships. Excluding transportation, orders fell 1.2 percent, the agency said.

The week’s big economic news — the Labor Department’s monthly employment report — is due out Friday morning.

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