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Etec&#039s 2Q loss smaller than expected

Etec Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ETEC) posted a smaller-than-expected loss in its second quarter Wednesday, losing $1.4 million, or 6 cents a share, on sales of $55.2 million.

First Call consensus expected the chip-equipment maker to lose 10 cents a share in the quarter.

Etec shares closed up 4 3/8 to 108 1/4 ahead of the earnings report.

In January, Applied Materials Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAT) agreed to buy Etec for $1.78 billion in stock.

On Tuesday, Applied Materials topped analysts' estimates in its first quarter, earning $328 million, or 80 cents a share, on sales of $1.67 billion.

Etec's second-quarter sales of $55.2 million marks a 4 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it earned $1.7 million, or 8 cents a share, on sales of $53 million.

"If you look past the effects of the system slip, the second quarter was a positive one for Etec," said CEO Steve Cooper in a prepared release. "The quote activity of prior quarters resulted in strong bookings from both captive and merchant maskmakers."

Etec shares hit a 52-week high of 109 9/16 earlier this month after falling to a low of 21 5/8 in April.

Eleven of the 13 analysts tracking the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

Analysts were looking for a profit of 69 cents a share in fiscal 2000.