Fed Holds Markets Hostage

Dell Computer’s strong quarterly numbers put
tech stock investors in a brighter mood, and an April slide in wholesale
prices helped ease rate hike jitters. The markets have for the most part,
already factored in a half-point rate hike ahead of the Fed’s Tuesday
meeting, and investors seemed content to do a little pre-weekend buying.


Despite the positive trading day, the Fed still holds the broader markets
somewhat hostage, as the light volume would indicate. While many investors
were breathing a sigh of relief at posting some early morning gains, by
late-afternoon most had evaporated.


The ISDEX marched 1.08%, while blue chips saw a continuation of Thursday’s
nice rally, climbing 63.40 to 10,609.37. Mild movement to the upside sent
the Nasdaq moving ahead 29.49 to 3,529.07.


Cisco thumbed its nose at Barron’s
criticism of its acquisition strategy as the networking bellwether
announced plans to acquire Swedish-based multiplexing technology company
Qeyton Systems for $800 million in stock. The acquisition will shed
a nickel from Cisco’s Q4 results.


Shares of Lycos edged up 1/8 to 54-1/8 following
reports that had the portal company in talks with Spanish ISP Terra
Networks
. Majority-owned by Spanish telecomm giant
Telefonica SA , Terra Networks hinted that ongoing
discussions could materialize into a major alliance or perhaps even a merger.


Investors were in no mood for the new issues market, as shares of
Sequoia Software got a chilly reception in its
debut. The XML software developer managed an underwhelming $2 gain above
its $8 offering price.


Agilent Technologies roared 13-5/16 to 89-7/8 after
the Hewlett-Packard spin-off announced that it has
brokered a deal to acquire Salient 3 Communication’s wireless subsidiary, SAFCO Technologies, for $120
million in cash. Analysts are also expecting Agilent to be added to the S&P
500 index shortly.


Internet Capital Group shed 1-11/16 to 30-1/8,
after the B2B incubator posted $1.30 per share for its latest quarter.
Looking to hop off the B2B bandwagon, Robertson Stephens and U.S. Bancorp
Piper Jaffray scrambled over one another to drop their ratings on the
company to a “buy” from a “strong buy.”


VerticalNet got a modest boost from Credit
Suisse First Boston, inching > higher to 40-1/16, after the underwriter
reiterated a “strong buy” rating on the B2B vortal, and says it expects to
see better-than-expected Q2 earnings.

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