Mad Cow News Clouds Micron’s Star

News of the U.S.’s first case of mad cow disease threw a cloud over trading during an abbreviated Christmas Eve session Wednesday, but Micron Technology turned out to be a shining star in the tech sector.

The second largest maker of computer memory chips reported that its profit for its first fiscal quarter of 2004 was $1 million, or break even, on sales of $1.1 billion. The news essentially reversed its losses from the same, year-ago quarter when it reported a net loss of $316 million on sales of $685 million. Shares of the company closed up about 2 percent to $13.44.

One little company with a big gain on the Nasdaq Wednesday was
Sirius Satellite Radio , whose shares closed up by about 9 percent at $2.40. The provider of paid satellite radio programming was the subject of a recent profile in the New York Times. Microwave equipment maker California Amplifier was the big mover on the day, closing up 15 percent at $14 on news it plans to buy Vytek Corp. for about $76 million in stock.

Research in Motion , whose shares took a ride up by over 40 percent Tuesday following a strong earnings report, had slipped by over 2 percent to $68.05 by the close of the shortened trading session.

But the big news was sweeping across broad markets, where meat and fast food companies were feeling pressure after the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture announced a case of mad cow disease in Washington state, the first reported case in the country. The news prompted major importers of U.S. beef to shut off shipments.

The Nasdaq index closed down by just under 6 points to 1,969 on thin volume. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off by 36.07 to close at 10,305.

In other market news, durable goods orders declined 3.1 percent to $180.1 billion in November, marking the first fall in three months, on a slump in orders for computers, communications equipment and aircraft, according to Thomson Financial.

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