AMAT, Dell Take Center Stage

Applied Materials and Dell will provide the latest barometers of IT spending when they report quarterly results this week.

AMAT, which reports Wednesday after the close, is expected to report a year-over-year decline in earnings, from 9 cents a share in the year-ago quarter to 5 cents a share in the quarter ended Oct. 31. With chip equipment spending lagging and a high valuation, AMAT will be watched closely for signs of a recovery in 2004.

Dell , meanwhile, is expected to show a 24% jump in earnings to 26 cents a share when it reports after the close on Thursday. If ever there was a tech company that could be counted on to make its number, it’s Dell, but the company’s commentary on the current spending environment will no doubt be important.

Stocks slipped for the third straight day on Tuesday, as investors continued to weigh strong economic and earnings reports against the threat of rising interest rates.

The Nasdaq fell 10 to 1930, the S&P 500 slipped half a point to 1046, and the Dow declined 18 to 9737. Volume declined to 1.16 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.64 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 19-13 on the NYSE, and 20-11 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 62% on the NYSE, and 66% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 102-16 on the NYSE, and 132-18 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, Computer Sciences and iPayment beat estimates. Sycamore missed on revenues, and Brocade rose on a Goldman Sachs upgrade.

During the day, PeopleSoft lost 2% after Oracle said it may have to abandon its takeover bid. surged 9% after beating estimates.

eResearch fell 4.5% on a warning.

And Gartner predicted solid growth in IT spending in 2004 and 2005.

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