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IBM lifts techs in late trading

Big Blue leads a surprisingly robust tech rally in late trading, helping the Nasdaq composite erase an 80-point deficit to close up 31 points to 2,183.31.

IBM led a surprisingly robust tech rally in late trading Thursday, helping the Nasdaq composite erase an 80-point deficit to close up 31 points to 2,183.31.

The Dow Jones industrial average wasn't as fortunate, falling 45 points to finish at 10,450.14.

IBM shares rocketed up $6.15 to $106.05 after Salomon Smith Barney analyst John Jones said the company will likely meet earnings estimates in the current fiscal year.

"In the Q&A IBM declined to comment on the current economic environment," Jones wrote in a research note. "However, the fact that it conducted this session and from the way it characterized its 2001 outlook at last month's fourth quarter 2000 EPS (earnings per share) release, one could conclude, and we do, that IBM remains comfortable with 2001 consensus EPS."

This first sign of somewhat positive news spread like wildfire throughout the tech sector in the last two hours of trading.

Intel shares picked up 53 cents to $29.09 after spending most of the day in the red. Advanced Micro Devices fell 53 cents to $20.97, but Applied Micro Circuits and PMC-Sierra rallied up $2.82 and $5.63 a share, respectively.

Shares of communication chipmaker Broadcom fell $1.63 to $47.63 after the stock's rating was cut by Merrill Lynch and Salomon Smith Barney because of weak demand and continuing inventory woes.

Lam Research reversed its early losses to post a gain of $1 a share to $22.50 despite issuing a nasty profit warning. Novellus Systems gained $1.75 to $40.38, and Applied Materials closed up $3.08 to $45.33.

Fiber optics giant Corning moved up $3.21 to $30.25 even though it said it will lay off 825 workers at its photonics-manufacturing facilities because of decreased demand from the weakened telecommunications industry.

Among widely held PC stocks, Dell Computer chopped off 38 cents to $21.50; Gateway clipped $1.45 to $15.75 after its profit warning; Apple Computer moved up 50 cents to $18.75; and Compaq Computer trimmed 80 cents to close at $19.40.

Microsoft picked up 36 cents to $59.36 as business resumed after Wednesday's 6.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Seattle area. Oracle jumped $2.38 to $21.38, and Sun Microsystems tacked on 19 cents to end at $20.06.

America Online Time Warner trimmed 3 cents to $44. Yahoo rose 63 cents to $24.44, while and CMGI gained 25 cents and 16 cents a share, respectively. eBay closed off 66 cents to $37.69.

Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.