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Tech stocks nicked by earnings warnings

Earnings warnings from Compaq and other tech companies take the cheer out of the technology sector while the Dow posts modest gains.

Earnings warnings from Compaq Computer and other tech companies took the cheer out of the technology sector Wednesday while the Dow posted modest gains.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 109.00, or almost 4 percent, to 2,822.77, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 11.19 to 1,359.99. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.17 to 10,794.44.

Al Gore decided Wednesday to concede the United States' prolonged election, according to The Associated Press, citing two of the vice president's senior advisers. The expected concession would allow George W. Bush to become the 43rd president and the leader of a nation sharply divided along political lines.

The CNET tech index fell 73.34 to 2,336.23. Decliners led advancers, with 74 of the 97 stocks in the index falling, 21 rising and two remaining unchanged.

U.S. retail sales in November fell by a surprising 0.4 percent, led by the biggest drop in auto sales in more than two years, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Many analysts had expected sales to rise slightly.

November's decline marked the weakest performance since retail sales dropped by 0.5 percent in April, the Commerce Department said. In October, sales were flat, according to revised figures. The government previously reported a 0.1 percent increase.

Despite the sales slowdown, Wall Street did not express too much concern. "While consumer sentiment in November was suffering from election-outcome uncertainty, a weak equity market and higher oil prices, consumers still do not appear to be going on strike," wrote Stan Shipley, a senior economist at Merrill Lynch.

Almost all of the 18 sectors tracked by CNET Investor fell. Server-software makers posted the sharpest drops, falling about 7 percent, followed by PC Hardware and server hardware makers, which fell 5 percent each. Communication services providers were the day's only gainers, climbing about 1 percent.

"Today was a very bad day for the box makers," said Bob Stovall, a market strategist at Prudential Securities.

Compaq on Tuesday lowered fourth-quarter revenue expectations by as much as 10 percent. The PC maker's stock fell $2.67, or almost 13 percent, to $18.10.

Compaq now expects revenue to be between $11.2 billion and $11.4 billion, 8 percent to 10 percent below expectations.

Compaq supplier Avocent fell $10.25, or nearly 24 percent, to $32.63. Avocent, a maker of network equipment for PCs and servers, generates more than 20 percent of its revenue from sales to Compaq. Compaq said Tuesday that it expects a slowdown in server sales.

Dell Computer fell $1.25 to $20.44 Wednesday. Analyst Walter Winnitzki at Chase Hambrecht & Quist kept his rating on the direct seller of PCs at "market perform" but cut earnings estimates for fiscal year 2001, which ends in Jan. 2001, to 89 cents a share from 92 cents and reduced fiscal 2002 earnings to $1.02 from $1.12 a share.

Winnitzki said a slowdown in computer sales this Christmas season will pinch Dell's bottom line. "Since the early November (earnings) guidance, we have seen evidence that the post-Thanksgiving holiday consumer PC selling season would be a bust," he wrote in a research note.

Other tech companies also said they would have fourth-quarter earnings troubles.

RadiSys fell $6.69, or almost 24 percent, to $21.50. The maker of computer systems said Tuesday it expects to earn 20 cents to 24 cents for the fourth quarter, less than the 41 cents expected by analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial.

Shares of Actel fell $6.13, or 20 percent, to $23.88. The chipmaker warned that its fourth-quarter revenue would not meet earlier estimates and instead would be about the same as the $60.1 million in revenue from the third quarter.

Internet consulting company Razorfish said it expects to have a fourth-quarter pro forma net loss of 17 cents to 22 cents a share. Analysts polled by First Call expected the company to earn 2 cents a share. Shares of Razorfish fell $1.34, or 43 percent, to $1.75, making it the largest percentage loser on the Nasdaq.

Shares of Net2Phone managed to escape the earnings undertow, rising $1.94, or about 20 percent, to $11.69. The company that allows people to make calls from their computer said it had a loss of 25 cents a share in its first fiscal quarter. Analysts polled by First Call expected the company to lose 30 cents.