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Nasdaq slips as Dow falls sharply

Stocks mostly finish lower as the markets wait for the government's release of economic data tomorrow that is a barometer for interest rate decisions.

Stocks mostly fell today as the markets wait for tomorrow's release of important economic data.

The government will release U.S. Producer Price Index (PPI ) data before the markets open, a measure of wholesale prices on the production side of the economy. Some economists regard the information as pertinent to the health of the economy, which the Federal Reserve Board uses to make interest rate decisions.

"We should have a relatively well behaved core PPI (the part that excludes energy prices), but energy prices have sneaked up on people over the past few months," said Peter Kretzmer, an economist at Bank of America Securities.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 13.70 to 3,825.56, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 9.69 to 1,461.67.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 144.14 to close at 10,668.72 led by Procter and Gamble.

At the end of regular trading, Intel closed down $2.75 at $126.19. Microsoft also dropped $1.69 to $68.81.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled yesterday that Microsoft violated antitrust laws and must be split into two separate companies. Microsoft can retain its operating systems for PCs, TV set-top boxes, handheld computers and other devices. But the company would be forced to create a separate firm for its other software and Internet products.

The CNET tech index lost 11.17 to close at 2,826.29. Losers edged out winners, with 54 of the 98 stocks in the index falling, 43 rising and one remaining unchanged.

Of the 18 sectors tracked, computer distributors recorded the largest gains, rising about 5 percent. Wireless companies were the day's biggest losers, falling 4 percent.

Internet service provider was the biggest percentage gainer on the Nasdaq. Its shares jumped $3.31, or 41 percent, to $11.31. Volume topped 6.8 million shares, more than 18 times the stock's average daily volume.

EarthLink said today it will acquire in a cash-and-stock deal valued around $308 million in an effort to quickly boost its audience.

Great Plains Software was the Nasdaq's largest loser, falling $18.75, or 46 percent, to $21.63 on a volume of 5.7 million shares, more than 37 times the stock's average daily volume.

The accounting software maker announced after markets closed yesterday that its upcoming fiscal fourth-quarter earnings will fall far short of analysts' expectations.

Among members of the CNET Tech Index, Citrix Systems and Adaptec posted losses.

Citrix fell $8.13, or about 14 percent, to $51.56, and Adaptec dropped $1.88, or almost 9 percent, to $19.13. Adaptec said it plans to spinoff its software unit as an independent company and offer shares for part of the unit.

On the upside, Ingram Micro and Analog Devices recorded gains. Ingram rose $1.63 to $18.13, and Analog gained $6.06 to $94.69.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index rose 13.04 to 1,142.64, led by chip designer Rambus, which rose $16.25 to close at $229.75.

Strong sales of wireless and analog chips allowed chipmaker National Semiconductor to post quarterly earnings today that surpassed analysts' expectations. The company's shares fell $1.13 to $63 today.

International financier George Soros said today the Russian Internet is a hot investment, and he would consider again investing in the country where he made what he called the worst bet of his career.