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Applied Materials tagged with another downgrade

Applied Materials shares trimmed 88 cents to $38.69 Thursday after the chip-equipment maker was downgraded to a “maintain position” rating from an “accumulate” rating by A.G. Edwards.

Earlier this month, Merrill Lynch cut the stock from a near-term “accumulate” recommendation to a near-term “neutral” rating mainly due to slowing PC and semiconductor demand.

Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) shares 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.

First Call Corp. consensus expects 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 (Nasdaq: LRCX) was up 63 cents to $15.13; KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC) edged up 44 cents to $34.06 and Novellus Systems (Nasdaq: NVLS) was up 31 cents to $36.38.

Following Thursday’s downgrade, 23 of the 30 analysts following Applied Materials rate the stock either a “buy” or “strong buy.”