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Techs stagnate on mixed economic picture

Investors are pulled in different directions, caught in a tug-of-war of news on inflation, production output and tech companies.

Technology stocks ran in place Friday as investors took in an assortment of mixed news about the economy and the tech industry.

The Nasdaq lost 1.99 points to 1,898.58, and the Dow Jones industrial average was off 5.40 points to 9,866.99.

The markets rose just marginally Thursday, despite a steady flow of good news.

In economic news Friday, a report on consumer prices reassured economists that inflation is under control in the United States. The Consumer Price Index fell 0.3 percent last month, following a 0.4 percent gain in September, according to the Labor Department. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.2 percent for the fourth straight month in October.

The results were in line with expectations: Economists had predicted the CPI would fall 0.2 percent, and the core would be up 0.1 percent.

Although inflation appears to be under control, it doesn't necessarily mean that the Federal Reserve won't continue chopping interest rates.

"If it's necessary to reduce rates, I don't see any constraints on the Fed at this point," said San Francisco Fed President Robert Parry on Thursday. "If further action is required, I am sure we have the capability to do that."

In a separate report, the Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities fell 1.1 percent in October--the biggest decrease since November 1990.

The latest decline, which followed a 1.0 percent drop in September, marked the 13th consecutive fall in output--the longest string of declines since the 15 months ended July 1932, when the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression.

On the technology front, Dell Computer shares fell $1.09 to $26.60 after the company reported results that were slightly above expectations in its third quarter. The company sees fourth-quarter earnings per share flat at 16 cents.

Yahoo rose 64 cents to $15.47 after its announcements on Thursday. The Internet company detailed its restructuring plan, which includes laying off 400 workers; it also predicted that revenue in 2002 would increase compared with 2001.

Agilent Technologies reported a dour fourth quarter Thursday. The company said it would double its job cuts to 4,000, and said a recovery wasn't in the books anytime in the next year. Shares fell 90 cents to $24.13.

Intuit shares fell $1.85 to $39.97 after the company reported mixed results for its first quarter. The maker of personal-finance software on Thursday said it had a wider net loss after charges, but beat analysts' expectations with operating profits.

Among other actively traded shares, Intel fell 24 cents to $30.54, Oracle lost 24 cents to $14.55, and Microsoft fell 37 cents to $65.75.

AOL Time Warner fell 54 cents to $37.01, and dropped 10 cents to $8.95.

Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.