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STOCKS UP SHARPLY DESPITE PROFIT FEARS

Stocks moved higher today, buoyed by rebounds in some technology and blue chips issues, as the market appeared to find footing despite ongoing worries about corporate profits.

At 1 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average gained 181.64 at 10,810.00. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 22.80 at 1,449.37, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 64.86 to 3,721.16.

Greg Nie, a technical analyst at First Union Securities, didn't see any one driving force behind the market's behavior. He said of the Dow, "you simply have 23 issues up and only seven down, and that's better news."

Stocks have been down for most of September on worries about corporate profits. And investors, unsure where to put their money, have punished stocks of companies that even hint at disappointing results when third-quarter results are announced next month.

Compounding the stress are energy prices at decade-high levels and a weak European currency -- factors that many companies say will hurt their bottom lines.

Cisco Systems, which makes telecom equipment, fell 81 cents to $56.50 after it was downgraded by a Sanford Bernstein analyst. But Nortel Networks rose $2.59 to $61.88, halting a decline that began the previous session. Lucent also moved higher, trading up $3 at $31.56.

And web portal Yahoo! was up $5.38 at $95.75, getting back nearly half of its loss Wednesday.

News of a $6.5 billion merger between Global Crossing and Exodus, two Web site hosting companies, had mixed results. Exodus fell $2.06 to $51.19 in morning trading; Global Crossing was up $2.13 at $32.

Long-distance telephone companies, whose shares have been plagued by slowing revenue, rose. Sprint Corp., which has plunged 58 percent this year, gained $2 to $28.50. WorldCom Inc., which rose $1.69 to $27.75, has fallen 48 percent this year. AT&T Corp., down 44 percent, rose 69 cents to $28.31. "These are stocks that are very (widely traded,) they're down in price and they provide value to growth investors," said Brian Belski, chief market strategist at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis. "The risk there is a lot less on a relative basis is less than chasing the high-flyers," such as Cisco and JDS Uniphase Corp., he said.

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