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Computer orders, shipments drop in September

New orders for computers fell in September, the U.S. Commerce Department reported this week--a gloomy sign for the information technology industry. The total dropped 3.2 percent from the August tally, to $5.36 billion. Computer shipments also fell compared with the previous month, by 1.3 percent, to $5.14 billion. The semiconductor industry made an even weaker showing, with semiconductor shipments dropping 8.2 percent month-on-month to $5.83 billion. Elsewhere, a more encouraging sign was that shipments of computer storage devices rose 15.1 percent from August, to $1.48 billion.

In recent months, reports have not painted a consistent picture of the future of IT spending. A semiconductor trade group recently issued a rosy forecast for the chip industry.