Markets end on mixed note

Technology stocks manage to finish higher today as other indexes drift downward.

3 min read
Technology stocks managed to finish higher today as other indexes drifted downward.

"Nasdaq stocks were trading very mixed today," said Kathy Taylor, a trader at A.G. Edwards. "The Nasdaq has recouped some of its losses from last spring, but some individual stocks have a ways to go.?

The Nasdaq inched up 11.62 to 4,082.21, led by small gains for computer hardware and networking stocks. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 4.25 to 1,509.84.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 37.74 to close at 11,215.10 led by Alcoa, which fell $1.44 to $32.63.

Volume on the major markets was light. About 1.5 billion shares exchanged hands on the Nasdaq. The number of shares exchanging hands on the Nasdaq in late August--typically the market's slowest season--has dipped as low as 1.2 billion shares per day, compared with 2 billion or more during the bull run of February and March and the frenzied retreat in April.

At the end of regular trading, Intel closed up 19 cents at $74.06, while Microsoft dropped 38 cents to $70.94.

Economic statistics reported this morning were generally positive, giving markets a boost early in the day.

Americans' faith in the red-hot economy slipped slightly in August, but overall confidence remains high. The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence index fell to 141.10 from 143 in July.

The results came in just shy of Wall Street expectations of 141.40. The Conference Board bases the index on a survey of 5,000 U.S. consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity.

"The consumer confidence level reflects the overall positive state of the U.S. economy," said economist Peter Kretzmer of Banc of America Securities in a report. "With employment conditions still good and equity markets stabilizing, (it) seems unlikely to change suddenly anytime soon."

The Commerce Department reported that home sales spiked up 14.70 percent in July from a drop of 7.10 percent in June, the biggest jump since April 1993. The surge comes as a result of a drop in mortgage rates since May, which sent consumers stampeding into the housing market.

The CNET tech index rose 5.29 to close at 3,319.28. Winners edged out losers, with 55 of the 97 stocks in the index rising and 42 falling.

Of the 18 sectors tracked by CNET Investor, semiconductor-equipment companies posted the biggest gains, jumping 2 percent. Wireless companies were the day's largest losers, sliding 1 percent.

Among members of the CNET tech index, shares of ADC Telecommunications rose $3.63, or 10 percent, to $39.69. Volume nearly reached 38 million shares, making ADC the most actively traded stock on the Nasdaq.

The company said fiscal fourth-quarter sales will surge as much as 50 percent on demand for its communications gear, parts and software.

Shares of Yahoo dropped $1.06 to $121 in midday trading, after analysts issued unfavorable comments about the Internet portal.

PaineWebber reiterated its "buy" rating on the stock this morning. Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget also maintained his "buy" recommendation on Yahoo.

Blodget said in his report that "sentiment toward the leading consumer net stocks is gradually improving and Yahoo will have a solid finish to the year."

American Management Systems rose $4.50, or 28 percent, to $20.31. The information-technology consulting firm agreed to a $185 million settlement with the state of Mississippi. American Management said it will take a related charge of about 56 cents a share in its third quarter.

Dycom Industries rose $4.69, or 10 percent, to $50. The cable layer for telephone and cable-television companies said that fourth-quarter earnings were 51 cents a share, beating the 43-cent average estimate of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial.

National Information Consortium rose $3.03, or almost 44 percent, to $10. The consulting company said it will provide state government information to America Online under a three-year contract.

724 Solutions rose $6.63, or about 18 percent, to $44.44. Bank of America said it will offer wireless banking and brokerage services to clients using the software company's products.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index fell 2.27 to 1,132.17, led by chip designer Rambus, which fell $3.38 to $80.63.

Memory-chip maker Micron Technology has filed a lawsuit against Rambus, making Micron one of the first companies to resist Rambus' efforts to collect royalties on some of the most popular PC memory technologies. Micron fell $1.25 to $88.06.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.