AMAT’s Orders on the Upswing

Applied Materials beat Wall Street estimates after the close on Wednesday, and also reported a strong sequential increase in new orders.

AMAT’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of 15 cents a share were down from 27 cents in the year-ago quarter, but a penny ahead of estimates. Sales of $1.72 billion were down 22%, but were well ahead of $1.63 billion forecasts.

And a 15% sequential increase in new orders to $1.69 billion suggests that chip equipment demand may be on the upswing.

“We closed fiscal 2005 on a positive note as customers began increasing orders and investing in new capacity and next-generation nanotechnology to prepare for further industry growth,” AMAT CEO Mike Splinter said in a statement.

The company offered mixed guidance for its January quarter: earnings of 14-15 cents a share would come in below 17-cent estimates, but sales of $1.77-$1.8 billion would be comfortably above $1.72 billion forecasts.

AMAT’s quarterly report card followed a CIBC downgrade of the chip equipment sector during the day. CIBC rated the sector “underweight” based on high stock valuations, rising costs and competitive pricing, concerns underscored by AMAT’s mixed guidance.

AMAT shares lost 2% in after-hours trading.

Also after the close, Network Appliance , Intuit and also beat estimates.

The broader market was mixed Wednesday, as traders were torn between a positive consumer inflation report and rising energy prices. A warning from American Express and continuing concern about GM weighed on the Dow.

The Nasdaq rose 1 to 2188, the S&P 500 climbed 2 to 1231, and the Dow lost 11 to 10,675. Volume declined to 2.12 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.72 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 17-16 on the NYSE, and 18-12 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 51% on the NYSE, and 51% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 46-217 on the NYSE, and 66-100 on the Nasdaq.

Yahoo rose 6% on a deal with Gawker Media and plans to overhaul its shopping offerings, while Apple hit a new all-time high on a Bear Stearns upgrade.

Analog Devices slipped 2% on its earnings report, while Blue Coat tumbled 19% after missing estimates.

Intellisync fell 8% on news that it will be acquired by Nokia .

Overland Storage lost 10% after ADIC withdrew its takeover offer.

Pomeroy tumbled 18% after missing an SEC filing deadline.

China Techfaith soared 36% on its results.

Advent Software fell 7% on a JMP Securities downgrade.

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