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Markets slide as investors await Fed meeting

Stocks edged slightly lower as investors appeared preoccupied with weekend plans and next week's interest rate-policy meeting.

Stocks edged slightly lower as investors appeared preoccupied with weekend plans and next week's Fed Reserve meeting.

"It's a big snooze," said Todd Clark, head of listed trading at WR Hambrecht. "Some options expired today, and the markets would have been even more anemic without that."

The Nasdaq fell 10.60 to 3,930.27, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 10.37 to 1,491.70.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 9.16 to close at 11,046.48 led by Philip Morris, which fell $1.56 to $32.31, and SBC Communications, which dipped $1.69 to $39.88.

For the week, the Nasdaq gained nearly 4 percent, while the S&P climbed 1 percent. The Dow remained nearly unchanged.

The Nasdaq traded a moderate 1.4 billion shares, and the New York Stock Exchange generated a lighter volume of about 800 million shares.

At the end of regular trading, Intel closed up 50 cents at $70.56, while Microsoft dropped 56 cents to $71.

The government reported today that the June trade deficit increased to a record $30.6 billion, fueled by the U.S. economy's appetite for crude oil and automotive products.

The markets reacted mildly to the news as investors focused on the Fed's meeting next Tuesday on interest-rate policy. Several analysts and economists expect that the Fed will refrain from raising rates.

"The worst may be behind us in terms of interest rates, and hopefully the markets can focus on good earnings that will come out in October," said Richard Peterson, a market strategist at Thomson Financial Securities Data. "The market will probably trade along listlessly until after Labor Day."

The CNET tech index lost 2.76 to close at 3,219.24. Losers edged out winners, with 56 of the 97 stocks in the index falling, 37 rising and four remaining unchanged.

Of the 18 sectors tracked by CNET Investor, e-tailers posted the sharpest drops, falling about 3 percent. Semiconductor equipment companies were the day's largest gainers, climbing almost 5 percent.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index rose 23.76, or 2 percent, to 1,134.82, led by chipmaker National Semiconductor, which rose $3.19 to close at $45.25. Chip-equipment maker Novellus Systems also gained $4.19 to $59.88.

The index has risen 20 percent since its close at 942.65 on August 10.

Some IPO offerings showed signs of life. Watkins-Johnson, whose chips and components process Internet and wireless traffic, was the highest percentage gainer on the Nasdaq on its first day of trading. The shares rose $16.25, or almost 102 percent, to $32.25.

The initial offering of Peco II, a maker of communications power systems, was the third largest percentage gainer on the Nasdaq. The shares rose $8, or 53 percent, to $23.

Among members of the CNET tech index, eBay and BMC Software were active.

BMC rose $2.19, or nearly 10 percent, to $25, while eBay fell $8.06, or about 13 percent, to $55.

Despite today's decline, eBay shares are still up about 25 percent for the week on optimism about the company's international expansion plans.

A narrower-than-expected first-quarter loss drove Agile Software higher, as the shares gained $7.50, or 13 percent, to $64.50.

Earnings news did not help Advanced Digital Info. The stock fell $2.19, or 15 percent, to $12.19. Excluding gains, the computer data storage equipment maker earned 9 cents a share in the third quarter compared to 11 cents a year ago. Wall Street expected the company to earn 14 cents a share, the consensus estimate of six analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial.

ADC Telecommunications fell $2 to $42.38 after reporting a 67 percent rise in third-quarter revenue.

The telecommunications equipment maker said net income rose to $18.5 million, or 2 cents a share, from $6.72 million, or 1 cent, a year earlier. Excluding acquisition costs, profit climbed to $127 million, or 17 cents, from $48 million, or 7 cents, a year earlier. Sales in the quarter ended July 31 rose to $891 million from $534.8 million.