Internet Leaders Pause

Internet shares were slumping in midday trading Wednesday, pausing from their torrid run-up over the last week. Volume was also falling as retail investors weren’t making up for the dip in institutional buying ahead of the Christmas holiday.

At noon Eastern,’s Internet Stock Index was off 13.77, or 1.58 percent, to 858.09, the Nasdaq Composite had fallen 18.04 to 3,893.11 and the Dow Jones industrial average had gained 22.63 to 11,223.17.

Most sector leaders were off, including Inc. (AMZN) off 2-5/16 to 97-9/16, America Online Inc. (AOL) was off 1-11/16 to 83-5/16, Ariba Inc. (ARBA) down 4-1/2 to 138-1/2, Inktomi Corp. (INKT) falling 8-1/4 to 172-3/4, Lycos Inc. (LCOS) slumping 4-3/8 to 87-3/4 and Verisign (VRSN) off 10-3/16 to 175-1/4.

Investors continued to jump for Juno Online Services (JWEB) which had gained another 7-9/16 to 74-5/16. The company Tuesday announced it would offer free Internet access in addition to its flagship free e-mail service. Previously, customers wanting Internet access from Juno had to pay a monthly fee. One stock not faring as well was Internet America (GEEK), plunging 7-9/64 to 13-55/64. Following Juno’s announcement speculation emerged that Internet America would also join the free access bandwagon, causing GEEK to rocket on Tuesday. However, shares fell after company officials denied those reports.

Healtheon/WebMD Corp. (HLTH) was up 1-3/4 to 38-3/4. The company Wednesday purchased Kinetra, a joint venture between Eli Lilly & Co. and Electronic Data Systems. Inc. (MQST) had plunged 7 to 25-1/2, giving back some of Tuesday’s big gains. Shares ran up Tuesday after reports that America Online would buy the company. That deal was formally announced Wednesday.

Network Solutions Inc. (NSOL) was off 3-13/16 to 271-5/16. The company has retained a financial advisor to examine a split of the domain registry it maintains from its registration business. It also announced a 2-for-1 stock split that will take effect after a follow-up offering of 7.73 million shares.

NetRatings Inc. (NTRT) had jumped 2-1/2 to 34-1/2. Nielsen Media Research Inc. Wednesday announced it was increasing its stake in the Internet measuring firm to 54 percent. It will pay $246 million in cash for the 43 percent it doesn’t already own.

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