Chip Stocks Dodge Market Sell-off

Applied Materials (NASDAQ: AMAT) paced a strong chip sector on Friday, helping tech stocks sidestep another sell-off in blue chip stocks.

AMAT shares gained 5% on optimism over the company’s solar business and plans to survive the economic downturn. The stock’s gains came even as the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International trade group reported a 51% plunge in chip equipment orders last month.

Also helping the sector were comments from Taiwan Semi (NYSE: TSM) chairman Morris Chang to the Wall Street Journal that the industry may be near a bottom — but that a full recovery might be a few years off.

Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) was another bright spot for the tech sector, climbing 3.6% ahead of the company’s earnings report next week, as traders hoped that they would get better than they got from HP (NYSE: HPQ) this week.

But Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) fell 7.7% on a Credit Suisse downgrade, and Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) lost 7%.

Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) tumbled 9% on its results.

The broader market fell on fears that the U.S. might nationalize banks, but stocks ended the day well off their lows after the White House tried to ease those worries.

The Nasdaq slipped 1 to 1441, the S&P 500 lost 9 to 770, and the Dow fell 100 to 7365. Volume rose to 9.51 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.57 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led by a 29-9 margin on the NYSE, and 20-8 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 25% on the NYSE, and 57% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 16-667 on the NYSE, and 9-452 on the Nasdaq.

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