WebMD Weighs Spinoff

WebMD is considering spinning off its online unit, the company announced after the close on Thursday.

“Based on the recommendations of the company’s outside advisers, WebMD has decided to take the steps necessary to sell approximately 10% of the equity of WebMD Health in an initial public offering,” the company said in a statement. WebMD said it expects to file the IPO registration statement in early 2005.

In addition to its online unit, WebMD also offers healthcare software and services. WebMD also reported earnings of 11 cents a share, a penny better than expected, but the company lowered fourth-quarter revenue guidance.

Also after the close, Nvidia beat estimates. eSpeed warned, and Cray missed estimates. ValueClick beat forecasts, and 24/7 met estimates.

Stocks soared during the day as traders cheered lower oil prices and President Bush’s second-term agenda, which includes changes to the tax code and Social Security. October employment data will be reported Friday morning.

The Nasdaq gained 19 to 2023, the S&P 500 rose 18 to 1161, and the Dow soared 177 to 10,314. Volume rose to 1.79 billion shares on the NYSE, but declined to 1.83 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 25-7 on the NYSE, and 18-12 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 82% on the NYSE, and 66% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 453-8 on the NYSE, and 174-54 on the Nasdaq.

Google fell 4% on rumors of an impending downgrade. The stock has been under pressure since it failed at the $200 level yesterday.

Chip stocks lagged on predictions of a slowdown.

Qualcomm fell 4.5% on a warning.

NetEase rose on its earnings report, as did MCI , Qwest , Roxio , Semitool , eCost and Insightful .

Falling on earnings reports were Sonus , Business Objects , China.com , Mamma.com , Jupitermedia , eCollege , Youbet , iPayment and Ditech .

Asyst plunged 28% after delaying its earnings report.

MarketWatch gained 10% on news of a possible bid from Viacom .

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