Technology stocks rallied strongly today after excellent earnings from eBay, but the Dow Jones industrial average continued the slide that has trimmed almost 500 points off the Blue Chip average since early September.

The Dow was done in today by weak earnings at Caterpillar Inc., whose sliding stock single-handedly kept the index underwater. The heavy equipment maker's stock fell more than $3 a share, taking 27 points off the Dow, which finished the day off 21 at 9,865.76.

The Dow fell to its lowest level of the year during the day's trading session but crawled back toward the close. Still it was the third day of losses in a row for the Dow, which began a jagged retreat right after Labor Day and has been unable to break out of that pattern.

Other indexes, which include better samples of the nation's publicly-traded companies, are not suffering as much as the Dow, whose 30 members happen to have had particularly weak results.

Today the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index climbed almost 3 points to 1,106.49 and the Nasdaq Stock Market composite index picked up a hearty 21 points, closing at 1,953.62.

Tech stocks -- including those in the S&P 500 -- rallied in response to eBay's report that earnings climbed to $182.4 million from $103.3 million in the third quarter of last year.

Also lifting the tech market were speculators betting on a blow-out performance by Google, which after the bell reported sales jumped from $394 million to $806 million. That apparently was not good enough for the more bullish bettors, because Google stock, which had been up during the day, retreated in after-hours trading.

Blue chips reacted more to the report on leading economic indicators than tech stocks because the business of the industrial giants in the Dow average is more closely linked to the overall performance of the economy than the fortunes of tech companies.

For a change, crude oil prices did not have much impact on the market. Crude closed at $54.47 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.