IT Services The Place To Be

The IT services sector got a boost from analysts on Monday, even if the endorsements were a little on the lukewarm side.

Merrill Lynch called Information Technology services the most attractive technology sector — but said it was the best “among a set of poor choices.” Merrill said it is negative on the tech sector in general, and called IT services the place to be “for those who must invest in technology.”

Merrill said it views the tech sector in general “as one with considerable hype, but poor and deteriorating fundamentals.” The Wall Street research giant said it believes the IT services sector is the only tech sector that will have accelerating earnings next year.

Within IT services, Merrill was negative on EDS , but that stock gained anyway on positive comments from research firm Bernstein. Merrill was positive on First Data , Affiliated Computer , SunGard and Fiserv , among others.

Blue chips slumped during the day after Wal-Mart lowered sales forecasts, adding to fears of a consumer spending slowdown.

The Nasdaq rose fractionally to 1838, the S&P 500 slipped 2 to 1095, and the Dow fell 37 to 10,073. Volume declined to 1.03 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.23 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 20-12 on the NYSE, and 18-12 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 64% on the NYSE, and 43% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 88-11 on the NYSE, and 54-34 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, Cingular Wireless announced it will drop the AT&T Wireless name after it acquires the company.

During the day, Sonus jumped 20% after reporting long-delayed results.

3Com and Monster rose on positive mentions in Barron’s.

Artisan Components rose 16% on news that it will be acquired by ARM Holdings .

Cisco edged higher on an acquisition.

iPass climbed 3% on a deal with Boeing .

ChipMOS jumped 12% on an upgrade, while Blackboard fell 10% on a downgrade.

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