RealTime IT News

Can 'Net Investors Expect More Holiday Cheer?

By next Wednesday's market close, internet.com's Internet Stock Index, or ISDEX, could be in the black.

All it has to do is repeat Tuesday's 65-point performance for the next six trading days. That would get it just over the break-even mark of 860.35 a week from now.

Alas, there's about as much chance that Texas Gov. George Bush will have a change of heart and, just to be fair, ask that all Florida ballots be hand-counted, for there have been few extended rallies for Internet stocks this year.

Rather, what gains there have been usually came slowly and incrementally, with shares ratcheting up two notches, only to backslide one. Then, just when it looked as if advances could be consolidated, the whole market would come crashing down, as it did from late October through November.

Still, given the market's ebullient response to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's comments Tuesday hinting that interest-rate cuts finally may be on the horizon, you can't blame battered 'Net investors for believing in (or at least hoping for) a holiday miracle.

The ISDEX saw 43 of its 50 members move up Tuesday, with 28 posting double-digit gains. Leading the pack was caching server and search engine software markets leader Inktomi , which bounced off Monday's 52-week low of $21.56 to finish at $34.44, a one-day increase of 57%. Runner-up TIBCO Software , a maker of "e-business" infrastructure software, rose 34.8% to $55.88 after unveiling new products for managing XML assets.

Clearly, eliminating the interest-rate Grinch is a great morale booster for investors. But other ghosts of Christmas present linger to haunt us - earnings concerns, cash flow crises and, especially, indications that economic growth is slowing. All of which should continue to weigh on 'Net tickers.

So with a Tuesday close of 472, the ISDEX remains down 45.1% for the year to date. It might be able to make a good dent in that deficit by Dec. 31, but the ISDEX, and all 'Net stocks, are like a 3-10 football team. No one's talking about a winning season any more; instead, it's all about building momentum for next year.

Here's hoping for some of that momentum in our stockings.