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Tech sector chalks up gains

The day brings mixed messages about the economy, but a rally in the last 20 minutes of the trading session helps the tech-heavy Nasdaq eke out gains for a third day.

The technology sector finished Friday with gains on Wall Street, despite a mild sell-off in the final hour of regular trading.

A rally in the last 20 minutes of the session helped the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index eke out a gain to finish at 2,084.79, up 9.05 points for the day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 60.07 points to close at 10,539.06. The Nasdaq has been rising since Wednesday.

The producer price index--a closely watched measure of wholesale price changes that is considered an early indicator of future changes in retail prices--sank 0.4 percent last month, the largest drop since 1999. Economists had been looking for a decline of 0.1 percent and read the surprise as a good sign that inflation is not taking hold.

In other economic news, retail sales rose 0.2 percent in June, following the upwardly revised 0.4 percent rise in May. But excluding car and truck sales, retail sales slipped 0.2 percent, in contrast with the 0.2 percent gain that was expected. The drop could indicate that consumers are cutting back out of concern for a depressed economy.

Another report, from the University of Michigan, showed that consumer's financial confidence rose in July despite continuing layoffs.

Microsoft has independently settled its antitrust case with New Mexico, eliminating one of the 19 states participating with the Justice Department in the landmark lawsuit. Microsoft agreed to pay legal fees to the state and to ensure that it receives any benefits handed down in the other lawsuits against the software giant. Microsoft shares were down 26 cents to $71.34.

RSA Security joined the growing list of security companies that have warned of disappointing results and declining sales. It also said it would miss estimates for the rest of this year and into the next. Shares fell $4.25 to $25.70.

Memory chipmaker Rambus was down $1.03 to $9.85 as falling prices for its chips led to a lowered outlook announced in its third-quarter report.

Advanced Micro Devices was down $1.62 to $21.08 after it reported second-quarter results that barely topped lowered expectations. Rival Intel dropped 9 cents to $30.19.

Cisco Systems rose 88 cents to $18.74. Juniper Networks, down $1.03 to $27.44, on Thursday reported quarterly results in line with expectations and predicted flat revenue in the third quarter. Juniper and Cisco compete in the market for high-end routers.

Among other heavily traded technology bellwethers, Oracle lost 16 cents to $19.50, Sun Microsystems rose 29 cents to $15.64, and Dell Computer advanced 58 cents to $27.95. gained 49 cents to $16.98, AOL Time Warner dropped 24 cents to $49.81, and Yahoo slipped a penny to $18.25.

Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.