Midday Report: Nasdaq Higher on Hopeful Economic News

Nasdaq stocks were headed higher Wednesday, following reports that U.S. homesales and durable goods orders were stronger than expected in March.

At midday, the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.92 at 2,027.53, withMicrosoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) up US$1.01 at $68.65 and Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL)ahead 47 cents at $26.32.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was up 7.45 at 1,216.92, and the DowJones Industrial Average was up 49.26 at 10,503.60.

U.S. government data showed that new-home sales rose in March to a record level,aided by lower interest rates.

Also during March, orders for durable goods — including big-ticket items like aircraft engines and washing machines — rose3 percent, according to a Department of Commerce report.

Taken together, the home sales and durables surge provide evidence that there is still spending going on, and that the rate increases from the Federal Reserve could be providing the fuel as intended.

Downgrades Sink Telecom

Telecom equipment stocks were lower following reports that UBS Warburgdowngraded several industry stalwarts because of a slowdown in demand fortheir products.

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) was down 38 cents at $15.88, JDSUniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU) was down $1.40 at $19.42, and Juniper Networks(Nasdaq: JNPR) was down $2.24 at $54.76.

UBS analyst Nikos Theodosopoulos reportedly downgraded Cisco, Juniper, ADCTelecommunications (Nasdaq: ADCT), Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN), Nortel (NYSE: NT)and Tellabs (Nasdaq: TLAB) to hold from buy, saying that telecom companies are not likely to increase their spending on equipment for at least two quarters.

GoTo Rises on Forecast

Internet search provider GoTo (Nasdaq: GOTO) was among the Nasdaq’s biggestpercentage gainers, rising $3.45 to $15.02 after posting strong results for thefirst quarter and predicting higher revenue and smaller losses for the restof the year.

Analysts at Merrill Lynch and Lazard Freres were said to have upgraded the stock after the report.

The E-Commerce TimesIndex was up 0.9 percent at midday, aided by a 2.8 percent jump in eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY). The online auctioneer was up $1.38 at $45.94.

E-Biz Drops

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), meanwhile, was down 36 cents at $15.32, evenafter reporting that it beat analyst estimates in the first quarter ended March 31st. The e-tailerreported a pro forma loss of $49 million, or 21 cents per share, as salesrose 22 percent from a year earlier.

Business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce company PurchasePro (Nasdaq: PPRO) wasdown 34.9 percent to $4.05, after the company said that results for the first quarter,set to be reported Wednesday, will be below analyst expectations because of “the deferred recognition of certain license revenue.”

E-business software maker BMC (NYSE: BMC) was also down, losing $4.55 to trade at $22.60, afterexecutives reportedly lowered their outlook for the quarter ending in June.BMC also reported revenue and earnings for the quarter just ended that werein line with expectations, but below year-earlier levels.

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