Stocks closed mostly higher today after a fitful session. Blue chips and a smattering of technology stocks led the advance at the expense of some of the high-tech leaders that have powered the market this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 66.67, to 11,134.79. The Dow had risen as much as 136 points in morning trading and briefly dipped into negative territory this afternoon.
Broader stock indicators also shifted direction several times before finishing higher. The Nasdaq edged up 8.09, to 3594.17, a new closing high, on record volume. More than 1.77 billion shares changed hands, topping Wednesday's record of 1.67 billion shares.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 4.23, to 1408.11.
Analysts said investors appeared torn between extending the modest profit-taking bout that began this week and leaping back into a market that has rewarded investors richly this year.
But a handful of technology stocks proved highly alluring today. VA Linux, which sells computer products and services based on the Linux operating system, was priced at $30 per share and closed at 239 1/4.
Sellers of Linux-based products are expected to benefit from the ongoing antitrust efforts against Microsoft, which could find the dominance of its Windows operating systems challenged.
Amazon.com rose 15-1/16, to 103 5/8, after J.P. Morgan initiated coverage of the company with a "buy" rating. Analyst Tom Wyman said the company's share price should hit 160 within 12 months and dubbed Amazon.com a "best of class" electronic retailer.
"There's an awful lot of enthusiasm for technology stocks," said William Meehan, chief market analyst for Cantor Fitzgerald.
But some stocks that have catapulted higher this year are having trouble attracting new money at their lofty prices, analysts said.
Intel fell 1 1/4, to 73 1/4, and Apple Computer fell 4-13/16, to 105 1/4.
IBM, which jumped out to an early gain, ended down 4-19/32 at 113-11/16. The company told analysts today that the year 2000 freeze on computer spending was a real threat that will pressure earnings in the fourth quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000.
Beyond technology, investors propelled the Dow higher by buying shares of American Express, which rose 1-9/16, to 159-13/16, and Johnson & Johnson, up 2-1/32 at 93 1/4.
Tyco, a diversified manufacturing conglomerate, plunged 8 1/4, to 28, after saying the Securities and Exchange Commission was informally looking into its accounting practices.
The outlook for stocks remains fundamentally bright, many analysts say, giving investors little reason to pull their money out of the market. But one potential worry for investors is a tightening labor market that eventually could force companies to boost wages to retain employees.
In after-hours trading, Bloomberg News reported, Corel and Perle Systems gained on optimism that their software's sales will grow with the popularity of the Linux operating system. Corel rose 6 1/4, to 45 1/2, after Nasdaq's close after gaining 10-15/16 during the regular session. The stock has risen 184 percent this week. Perle Systems jumped 5 3/8, to 28 1/4.