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Merrill Lynch raises targets for PCs

Merrill Lynch this week raised its forecast for worldwide PC shipments in 2004 from an 11 percent increase to a 13 percent increase. The hike, which is in line with forecasts from research firms Gartner and IDC, is based on "a decent consumer showing and an improving corporate market," the Wall Street giant said. In addition, the company predicted that unit shipments will fall by 7 percent from the fourth quarter to the first, a smaller than usual drop. However, steady price declines over the whole year will mean that revenue may increase by only 5 percent.

As for manufacturers, Dell could overtake Hewlett-Packard once again as the largest PC maker in the first half of the year, Merrill Lynch said. Dell and HP have traded the top spot a number of times since the HP-Compaq merger. Apple Computer fell below 2 percent in market share in 2003, but the company could see a bump over time as consumers buy Macintoshes with iPods.