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Markets wander pending economic news

Stocks continue to meander as the Nasdaq composite index and Dow Jones industrial average decline after posting early gains.

Stocks continued to meander today as the Nasdaq composite index and Dow Jones industrial average declined after posting early gains.

The Nasdaq, which dropped Monday and gained yesterday, slipped 81.14 to close at 3,630.09; the Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 16.15 to 1,460.99.

The Dow fell 179.32 to 10,945.50 after rising for the first two days of the week. Procter & Gamble and 3M posted significant losses after reporting quarterly earnings.

Some traders attributed today's declines to inflation fears. The government will release employment cost index and gross national product numbers tomorrow.

Intel fell $4.19 to $120.81, and Microsoft dropped $1.38 to $68. Intel will hold an analysts' meeting in New York City tomorrow, while archrival Advanced Micro Devices will meet with shareholders across town. AMD shares fell $5.38 to $82.13.

The CNET tech index lost 35.78 to 2,962.70, dragged down by shares of Maxim Integrated Products and Nextel Communications.

Losers edged out winners, with 64 of the 99 stocks in the index falling, 24 rising and one remaining unchanged.

Of the 18 sectors tracked, server hardware companies posted the sharpest declines, falling about 4 percent. Distributors were the day's biggest gainers, climbing 4 percent.

E-commerce software maker Transaction Systems was the biggest percentage loser on the Nasdaq Stock Market. It dived $11.69, or nearly 47 percent, to $13.31 on a volume of 11.4 million shares, more than 10 times the stock's average daily volume. The company reported earnings today. was the Nasdaq's largest gainer. America Online said it will acquire a stake in the ailing health information Web site. Drkoop shares rose $1.25, or 53 percent, to $3.59 on a volume of 19.4 million shares, nearly 22 times the average daily volume. AOL fell 75 cents to $60.25.

Among members of the CNET tech index, Maxim and Nextel posted significant pullbacks.

Maxim fell $6.25 to $59.63, and Nextel fell $7.81 to $103.75. Both companies recently reported earnings.

Optical equipment maker Ciena rose $9.69 to $115.56, while BMC Software rose $3.69 to $44.50. BMC reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index fell 21.61 to 1,060.84, led by circuit maker Linear Technology, which lost $3.88 to $49.63., which rose $1.06 to $53.50, reported earnings after the markets closed today; it could be a stock to watch tomorrow.