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Applied Materials dips on downgrade

The company's shares fall about 2 percent after the chip-equipment maker is downgraded to a "maintain position" rating from "accumulate" by A.G. Edwards.

Applied Materials shares edged lower Thursday, after the chip-equipment maker was downgraded to a "maintain position" rating from "accumulate" by A.G. Edwards.

Shares were closed regular trading down 13 cents to $39.44, after going as low as $38.38.

Earlier this month, Merrill Lynch cut the stock from a near-term "accumulate" recommendation to a near-term "neutral," mainly due to slowing PC and semiconductor demand. Applied Materials fell to a low of $34.13 shortly after the downgrade, making April's 52-week high of $115 a share seem like a distant memory.

Analysts polled by First Call expect Applied to earn 75 cents a share in its first quarter and $2.72 a share in the fiscal year. Last quarter, it beat the Street when it posted a profit of $664 million, or 77 cents a share, on sales of $2.92 billion.

Among other widely held chip-equipment stocks, Lam Research, KLA-Tencor and Novellus Systems all posted modest gains Thursday.

After Thursday's downgrade, 23 of the 30 analysts who follow Applied Materials rated the stock either a "buy" or a "strong buy."