The Dow Chugs Ahead while the Nasdaq Whimpers and AAPL Stagnates

As the stock markets wrap up one of the most volatile years in history, investors are playing it safe. The blue chips extended the Dowis rally for a fifth day, while the Nasdaq just wants the year to end. High flying tech stocks are no longer in vogue and the weakening economy has pushed much capital to bonds.

Not much can be drawn from this weekis market performance. Institutional and private investors alike are rushing to square their portfolios for the year, emphasizing trends that may not hold in the new year.

Appleis stock traded flat at 14 13/16 on volume of 5.4 million shares. With no sign of a pre-MacWorld bounce and with three weeks of sideways trading between 14 and 15 dollars, Appleis stock is going nowhere, but at least the downtrend seems to have broken and tax loss selling is coming to an end.

Prudential downgraded IBM and Dell because PC sales are weak and Dellis own investments in other tech stocks arenit going to be a source of much profit next quarter. The Prudential analyst believes Dell may even warn once more before Januaryis earnings are announced. Wit SoundView defended IBM, claiming the stock is oversold and should meet earnings expectations. Only a week ago Salomon Smith Barney reiterated its buy rating on IBM. Big Blue climbed 9/16 to 85 1/4 and Dell lost 1/16 to 17 15/16.

Falling PC sales continues to fascinate the media, some of which are hailing the dawn of a post-PC era. "The personal computer market is reaching maturity, claims an article. "Analysts said it appeared consumers were ditching PCs for trendier holiday electronics gifts like personal digital assistants and MP3 players."

The Nasdaq limped forward 18 points (0.72%) to close at 2557 on volume of 2.1 billion shares. Mature big cap technology stocks held the Nasdaq back today, while many second tier tech stocks, well positioned for the emerging network economy, climbed higher.

The Nasdaq is still on track for the worst year in its history, down 38% year to date. Nevertheless, on a global scale many Asian stock exchanges will sustain even worst one-year losses. The best performing stock exchange is Chinais Shanghai B Index, which gained 136%.

The Dow climbed 65 points (0.61%) to close at 10868 on volume of 1.02 billion shares. The Dow is down 6% in 2000.

The S&P 500 climbed 5.26 points (0.40%) to close at 1334.18 — lower by 11% year to date.

In Apple related businesses: Akamai shed 1 1/16 to 23 7/8. Adobe sagged 3 7/8 to 61 5/8.

World renown Mac author David Pogue explains why only a sucker would fall for Intelis the first generation Pentium 4. "Intel has spent five years creating this slower, hotter, much more expensive chip," said Mr. Pogue. "What on earth was the company thinking? Surely the Pentium 4 isnit simply a cynical play on consumersi belief that more megahertz is always better." Intelis stock lost 1 5/8 to 30 15/16, lows not seen since July of 1999.

Microsoftis stock was added to the Dow this year, only to become the Dowis 2nd worst performing equity in 2000. MSFT fell 1 7/8 to 44 9/16.

In economic news: U.S. consumer confidence fell in December to 24-month lows, indicating the slowdown in consumer sales will continue well into next year.

"Consumers were particularly pessimistic about the future," notes the Wall Street Journal. "The Conference Boardis expectations index, which measures the consumer outlook about six months down the line, dropped more than five points to 95.8, its lowest level since October 1998. The boardis present-situation index fell to 177 compared with Novemberis 179.7 reading."

Separately, housing sales showed a strong uptick, gaining 4.4% in November after falling 3.1% in October. The housing market has not slowed in parallel with the larger economy during the year, while employment has remained just above 30-year lows suggesting that there may be little risk of a full blown recession afterall.

Meanwhile, the new census revealed a 13.2% growth in the resident population of the U.S. to 281.4 million, with the biggest gains occurring in the South and Southwest.

For full quotes on all the companies mentioned in this article, we have assembled this set of quotes at Yahoo! for your reference. For other stories regarding Appleis stock activity, visit our updated Apple Stock Watch Special Report.