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Tech Industry

THE DAY AHEAD: Dump those tech shares, make a trader&#039s day

Pssst. There are a lot of traders waiting for you to dump your tech shares in a panic today.

Go ahead; sell your shares of those quality tech companies. You know the ones -- Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), EMC (NYSE: EMC), Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW), Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL) and America Online (NYSE: AOL).



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The institutional types and opportunists are just waiting to buy up your discarded shares. You've heard all the market gloom and doom all weekend. Black Friday turned into warnings about Black Monday. The New York Post summed it up well with a catchy "Maul Street" headline.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost more than a quarter of its value in one week. The Dow Jones industrial average also saw its worst one-day point loss ever as it staggered to a close of 10,305.77 Friday.

The losses had everyone -- the guy at the fruit stand, the Stairmaster junkie at the gym and media types everywhere -- talking about the bear market this weekend. Inevitably, you'll hear about the guy who was whacked by a margin call. Or the grandmother who lost a big chunk of change betting on the tech sector. It goes on and on.

But you aren't hearing much from the folks who are buying up your discarded shares. This "buy on the dip" minority is out there. We've heard individual investors wonder out loud what stocks they would target. We heard from a day trader who's talking about playing the index shares such as the Nasdaq 100 tracking stock (Amex: QQQ).

While CNBC is giving you special coverage of the "Monday sell-off," the smart money will be buying. Simple logic dictates that you can't sell a share without someone buying it.

For every margin call, there's a smiling buyer taking your shares. For every panic-stricken individual investor, there's a happy buyer. For every guy who has to dump shares to pay his taxes, there's someone to take his shares.

Falling markets? The end of the world? Nah, it's opportunity.

The catch with all this alleged opportunity is that you have to stick with quality names. Dot-coms that don't have the business model or the cash to last a year are bargains for a reason. But you can even find some dot-com bargains.

Stamps.com (Nasdaq: STMP) is a young company that is basically in startup mode. But it has cash. It closed at 11 9/16 on Friday. According to CEO John Payne, the company's cash position amounts to 8 1/2 a share.

Business-to-business stocks are also in the doghouse. However, companies like Commerce One (Nasdaq: CMRC), Ariba (Nasdaq: ARBA) and VerticalNet (Nasdaq: VERT) have good prospects. If they don't do it for you, go with Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) or i2 Technologies (Nasdaq: ITWO), both of which are major B2B players and have a good track record.

There's opportunity out there if you're willing to read the regulatory filings, stick to profitable companies, inspect business models and use some common sense.

And if techs don't come back?

If techs don't come back, be prepared for the Wall Street horror stories -- and the finger pointing.

If this bear market turns into a full-blown train wreck, expect the following entities to be vilified:

Wall Street analysts: Analysts are the linchpin in the Wall Street hype machine. Analysts became stars by putting unfathomable stock targets on companies such as Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN). Analysts have hyped companies like eToys (Nasdaq: ETYS) largely because the investment banking department brought them public. The analyst game is well known, but the excessive hyping could backfire in a downturn.

Venture capitalists and investment bankers: These guys can be blamed for bringing too many questionable companies public. Now the supply of stock easily outpaces demand. Business models were traded in for buzzwords. Until recently, the little investor fell for hot IPOs every time.

CNBC and the rest of the business press: For CNBC, every trading session is a soap opera. It's great for the ratings and bad for the long-term perspective. It's easy to engage in panic selling when CNBC is telling you the next Nasdaq support level is at 3,000.

And CNBC is hardly alone. Judging by the media coverage this weekend, the mainstream press is praying for a stock market crash -- it makes for a better story.

Brokerages: Easy target here. Margin requirements were a bit lax, and, in many cases pushed on investors. Being on margin is a fine tool as long as stocks go up. But would you take out a loan to go to Vegas? Online brokers advertised heavily and encouraged the quick, rapid fire trading that usually doesn't work for long-time investors.

And then there's the alleged suitability rules. Brokers are required to make sure investments are "suitable" for their clients.

Oh, really. One friend has an 83-year-old grandmother who watches CNBC all day and is a Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) shareholder. If the sky falls you know why -- grandmas shouldn't invest in tech companies that sell free software. Period.
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