The Dow Jones industrial average remains indefatigable.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index sits at an all-time high.
The Nasdaq stock market makes new records routinely.
But Washington technology stocks are nowhere close to the top of their game. Like the Orioles, out of the pennant race during an exciting baseball season, tech stocks produce occasional big plays but never a winning streak.
Tech stocks simply aren't keeping up with the market, as measured by the familiar benchmarks used by most individual investors. While the Dow and its daughters have recovered from their spring sell-offs and returned to record territory, few of the local technology stocks have come all the way back.
Internet stocks are the worst of the techno underachievers and the information technology industry has not done a whole lot better. Telecommunications stocks are the conspicuous exception. Several of them are at record highs, including PSINet Inc., the Internet service for businesses, and two local mobile phone companies -- Nextel Inc. and Omnipoint Inc.
But the performance of Net stocks, Wall Street's wonders for the past two years, is the tech issue that worries investors most. Their failure to bounce back with the rest of the market has divided high-tech investors into two camps: those who think Net stocks will roar back later in the year, and those who think this is the beginning of the end of Net stock mania.
Some investors are abandoning the online laggards, convinced that what has happened to Net stocks in the past couple of months represents a "correction."
Among the professionals who appear to subscribe to that theory are money managers at Fidelity Investment's Magellan Fund, who said last week that America Online Inc.'s stock is no longer among the fund's 10 largest holdings.
AOL, the flagship of the local Net industry, saw its stock hit $167 a share last spring, only to plunge to $99.50 a few weeks later. At Friday's close of $119.89, AOL stock is 28 percent short of its summit.
The stock of Network Solutions Inc., the Net names registry service, remains 40 percent below the record high it reached earlier in the year.
Internet stocks soon will be facing another challenge: the cyclical summer sell-off that has become as predictable as the hurricane season.
BancBoston Robertson Stephens analyst Keith Benjamin, among the most bullish Internet stock watchers, predicted Friday that Internet stocks will not be hit as hard this summer as they have been the previous two.
"We continue to expect stocks to move more sideways than down in August," Benjamin said in his "Weekly Web Report," an electronic newsletter.
Benjamin said he was encouraged about the strength of Internet stocks even though the NetDex index, made up of 30 of the Internet's biggest players, fell 3.4 percent from the previous week while the Nasdaq index was gaining 2.4 percent.
Representing the camp that contends Internet stocks will return to their peaks, Benjamin said earnings reports that are coming out in the next few days could get them moving again. Amazon.com Inc. -- everybody's favorite Internet stock -- AOL and Network Solutions are among the Internet companies scheduled to issue quarterly reports this week.
The market hasn't been any kinder to new entrants. Three of the region's top 10 technology initial public offerings hit new highs last week, but the other seven are selling for 6 percent to 60 percent less than their peak price, even though all the stocks gained ground last week.
The positive performers among the recent IPOs, all of them Internet companies, include:
Appnet Inc. of Bethesda, which went public at $12 a share, closed Friday at $21.87 1/2 a share.
Online Resources and Communications Inc. of Sterling, which went public at $14 a share, closed Friday at $15.37 1/2.
Network Access Solutions of Sterling, the stock of which hit a new high of $18 on Friday, is up 50 percent since its IPO of $12 a share June 18.
While this year's other tech IPOs are trading for less than their peak prices, all of them but ValueAmerica Inc. still are selling for more than their original offering price -- a positive indicator for the IPO market.
A final factoid that figures in the debate over where tech stocks are going is the market value of the emerging technology companies, which remains high when compared with more established firms.
Last week two of the region's recent IPOs announced that the value of their stock already has grown large enough that they qualify for the Russell 2000 Index, a collection of companies with market capitalization averaging $428 million. Market capitalization is the price of a stock multiplied by the number of shares outstanding. Frank Russell Co., an investment advisory company, puts the 1,000 companies with the largest market caps in its Russell 1000 index and the next 2,000 companies into the Russell 2000 index.
Cais Internet Inc. of Washington, which provides high-speed Internet access to hotel rooms, and Realty Information Group Inc. of Bethesda, which collects data and details on commercial real estate and distributes the information online, are the latest local additions to the Russell 2000.
Cais Internet lost $11.6 million on sales of $5.3 million last year and has a market capitalization of $398 million. Realty Information had revenue of $13.9 million last year, lost $3.2 million and has earned a market cap of $574 million.
The market's rich valuation of Realty Information is either a sign of the strength of the tech stock market or evidence of its weakness. To tech stock bulls, it shows investors still have confidence in innovative Internet companies and are willing to pay premium prices. To bears, the idea that an outfit that collects data on commercial real estate -- and happens to use the Internet -- is worth half a billion dollars is proof the tech stock correction is still to come.
Staff writers Maryann Haggerty and Brian Krebs contributed to this report.
The Washington Investing column on June 28 imprecisely described the expected dates when service will be started by two firms building competing satellite radio broadcasting networks. CD Radio Inc. is schedule to begin broadcasting by late 2000. XM Satellite Radio, owned by American Mobile Satellite Corp., will go on the air sometime in 2001, perhaps as early as three months after CD Radio.
A High-Tech Report Card
A look at how some of the region's most prominent high-tech stocks and biggest high-tech IPOs have fared reveals a mixed picture. As the graphs here show, telecommunications stocks have rebounded better than their Internet counterparts.
Co. (ticker) Year Ago 52-week Intermediate Friday
price high low* close
America Online (AOL) $29.62 1/2 $167.50 $99.50 $119.89
PSINet (PSIX) $12.68 1/4 63.75 9.12 1/2 63.00
Network Solutions 20.62 1/2 144.00 51.75 82.78 1/8
Omnipoint (OMPT) 22.86 7/8 35.75 N.A. 37.18 3/4
Teligent (TGNT) 30.62 1/2 62.50 19.50 61.50
Nextel (NXTL) 30.75 55.50 17.31 1/4 57.62 1/2
Company (ticker) Offering High Intermediate Friday
ValueAmerica (VUSA) $23.00 $55.18 1/2 $16.56 1/4 $20.18 3/4
Appnet (APNT) 12.00 22.75 8.18 1/8 21.87 1/2
Online Resources & 14.00 15.50 10.87 1/2 15.37 1/2
Realty Information 9.00 48.00 N.A. 44.31 1/4
Network Access 12.00 17.62 1/2 8.62 1/2 18.00
SOURCE: Bloomberg News
*Intermediate low is the lowest point a stock has been since reaching its highest point.