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Altera slips on downgrade

Programmable logic device maker Altera Corp. (Nasdaq: ALTR) met analysts' estimates in its second quarter Thursday, but slipped 7 percent Friday on a downgrade from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. The company raked in $51.1 million, or 25 cents a share, on sales of $197.8 million.

Altera shares fell 3 1/16 to 42 1/16.

Just as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter cut its rating on Altera to "outperform" from "strong buy" Friday morning, CS First Boston initiated coverage at a "buy."

First Call consensus pegged the San Jose, Calif. company for a profit of 25 cents a share in the quarter.

Company officials announced strong strong sales of new product offerings and a recovery in the Japanese and Asia/Pacific markets in their earnings report.

The $197.8 million in sales represents a 23 percent improvement versus the year-ago period when it made $36.6 million, or 19 cents a share, on sales of $160.4 million.

Total sales jumped 6 percent sequentially, but most of those gains came in Japan and Asia/Pacific where sales improved 10 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

"We are pleased with the results of the quarter and the continued progress of our new products in the marketplace," said CEO Rodney Smith.

Last quarter, Altera earned $47 million, or 46 cents a share, on sales of $186.4 million.

The stock hit a 52-week high of 46 7/8 earlier this week after trading at a low of 14 1/2 in August.

Twenty-two of the 26 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

First Call consensus expects it to earn $1.03 a share in the fiscal year.