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The Dow and Nasdaq Move Higher
as Investors Enjoy Another Calm Session

   Fox Market Wire
NEW YORK — Stocks powered ahead Thursday, as investors scooped up biotech shares and turned their focus to key employment data that could give hints to the extent of future interest rate hikes.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 80.35 points, at 11,114.27, while the Nasdaq moved up 99.79 points at 4,269.01.

On Friday, the government will release U.S. March jobs data. Economists in a Reuters survey estimated payrolls rose by 376,000 in March after a softer-than-expected 43,000 in the prior month.

On Thursday, biotechnology shares rallied strongly, led by PE Corp.-Celera Genomic Group, which saw its stock soar after the company said it had successfully finished the first step of sequencing a human genome.

"Biotech is certainly leading the pack," said John Davidson, chief investment officer at Orbitex Management.

Thursday's gain for the biotech index comes on top of a 6.31 percent rise on Wednesday, after President Clinton reassured the industry its commercial gene discoveries could be patented.

The boost on Wednesday helped the sector regain ground lost since mid-March, when stocks in the group fell after a confusing joint statement by Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The two leaders said commercial gene discoveries would be made freely available to a wider community of researchers.

Despite recent stomach-churning turns in technology shares, investors have not lost their appetite for the high-flying sector and are now snapping up these stocks at what some consider discount prices, analysts said.

"Tech stocks are on the sale rack," said David Sowerby, portfolio manager and strategist at Loomis Sayles in Detroit. "Unequivocally, (investors) are bargain-hunting."

A drop in the stock of Internet media company Yahoo! Inc., however, marred the tech sector's shine.

Despite first quarter earnings that beat official Wall Street projections, Yahoo! Inc shares fell amid market disappointment that it failed to match expectations of even higher marks.

Yahoo! got a brief lift off its low after influential Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst Mary Meeker hiked her 2000 and 2001 earnings estimates for the company.

Clothing retailer Gap Inc. was one of the day's biggest losers on the big board, after saying its chief operating officer was resigning and its March same-store sales fell 11 percent.

But investors were generally encouraged by the market's early glimpse of first quarter earnings, analysts said.

"As we get further into earnings, we'll see the fundamentals remain powerful and that will calm unsettled investor nerves," said Thomas Galvin, chief investment officer at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson said the Fed cannot and should not target the stock market and that changes in interest rates should aim only at balancing supply and demand.

He also reiterated that the Fed would be ill-advised to contemplate any changes in margin requirements.

But Ferguson also said earlier that banks and investors should not get carried away by the good times in the economy and should make appropriate provisions in case of a downturn and warned investors that many, if not most of the newer high-growth firms are bound to fail.

— The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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