Intel Downgrade Weighs on Techs

Tech stocks finished fractionally lower Thursday, which was something of a victory for bulls given that all the economic data went against them.

Falling productivity, rising wage pressures and unemployment claims and weaker than expected retails sales all weighed on stocks in early trading, but they pared much of their losses by the close ahead of Friday’s all-important monthly jobs report.

The biggest news of the day was Microsoft’s embrace of Linux, which sent Novell shares soaring.

Merrill Lynch analyst Joe Osha downgraded Intel from buy to neutral on slowing demand and rising inventories, sending the chipmaker’s shares 1.7% lower and putting a dent in the chip sector .

Dell gained 3% on its latest upgrade, this one from Goldman Sachs, which said it expects Dell to top forecasts when it reports quarterly results in two weeks.

ValueClick , Tekelec and EDS gained on their results, while 24/7 and Intest fell on their numbers.

The after-hours session was a busy one, with Gateway , Qualcomm , JDSU , CSC , Sina , Western Digital and CA reporting quarterly results. CA’s results came on the day that former CEO Sanjay Kumar was sentenced to 12 years for his role in the company’s accounting fraud.

The Nasdaq was down a fraction to 2334, the S&P 500 lost half a point to 1367, and the Dow dropped 12 to 12,018. Volume declined to 2.72 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.99 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 17-18 on the NYSE, and 17-12 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 54% on the NYSE, and 52% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 123-39 on the NYSE, and 70-64 on the Nasdaq.

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