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Tech Industry

Tech firms survive rocky quarter

Though financial markets are dropping again, PC manufacturers and a few others managed some gains from July to September.

Though U.S. financial markets are dropping again, PC manufacturers and a few other high-tech firms managed to post double-digit stock price gains from July to September.

The markets were battered again yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging 210.09 points to close at 7,632.53, following the previous day's 237.90-point fall. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 81.51 points to finish at 1,612.33.

Yesterday's dropoff followed after the close of a tumultuous quarter that saw a peak in July, collapse in early September, and a brief recovery before the latest downturn. The Dow ended the quarter off 12.4 percent, while the Nasdaq was hit with a 10.6 percent decline.

Despite the gloom, consumer computer stocks held up well, with companies like Apple, Dell, and IBM all recording 10-point climbs. Compaq and Gateway also exited the three-month period with share price gains.

Computing stock gainers, losers
Company 6/30
close
9/30 close Percent Change
Gainers
Apple 28.6875 38.125 + 32.9
Dell 46.4063 65.75 + 29.4
Sun 43.4375 49.8125 + 14.7
Losers
Data General 14.9375 10.8125 - 27.6
Silicon Graphics 12.125 9.375 - 22.7
Unisys 28.25 22.75 - 19.5
Source: News.com research

"The PC sector had more positive momentum than people thought, and that helped that area," said John Rohal, research director for BancBoston Robertson Stephens.

Aside from the PC sector, however, investors became more selective on a company-by-company basis as the quarter wore on, Rohal said. "As we look into the end of the period, August going into September, it became more of an issue of specific stocks doing well rather than sectors," he said.

Shares in online book and music retailer Amazon.com, for example, posted a nearly 12 percent increase during the quarter, but other e-commerce sites, like online auctioneer Onsale and online brokerage E*Trade, lost value during the same period.

Oracle fared well. The database company closed the quarter up 18.6 percent, receiving an end-of-the-period push when it reported stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings. Those results also helped move the company's share price beyond its July peak.

But rival Informix ended the quarter with a 36.8 percent drop in value.

Internet stock gainers, losers
Company 6/30
close
9/30 close Percent Change
Gainers
Yahoo 78.75 129.5 + 64.4
Amazon 99.75 111.625 + 11.9
AOL 105.125 111.625 + 6.2
Losers
Preview Travel 34.375 18.25 - 46.9
Onsale 24.75 16.6875 - 32.6
E*Trade 22.9375 18.6875 - 18.5
Source: News.com research

Intel watched its share price rise 15.7 percent over the course of the quarter. Like Oracle, the chip giant's stock soared in the second half of September to slightly exceed the 24-percent drop it suffered in late August. Intel got its boost after executives noted the company expects its revenues to be 8 to 10 percent higher than Wall Street's expectations when it posts its earnings later this month. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)

But other semiconductor companies like VLSI Technology, LSI Logic, and Micron suffered hits that wiped out 40 to nearly 55 percent of their value.

Microsoft investors ended the quarter a mere 1.56 percent ahead of where they began at the start of the period. Competitor Netscape fared worse, ending the quarter with its share price down 19.2 percent.