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U.S. markets struggle higher

U.S. stock markets manage to scratch out some gains today, with several open-source companies getting a boost from soaring revenue at VA Linux Systems.

U.S. stock markets managed to scratch out some gains today, with several open-source companies getting a boost from soaring revenue at VA Linux Systems.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 42.27 to 4,053.28, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 2.34 to 1,508.31. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.39 to 11,182.74.

At the end of regular trading, Intel slipped 38 cents to $74.25, and Microsoft ticked up 38 cents to $71.13.

Trading scooted along at a light pace on the New York Stock Exchange as about 817 million shares exchanged hands. The Nasdaq posted a volume of 1.5 billion shares, slightly busier than earlier in the week but off its winter and spring highs, when volume often tops 2 billion shares traded.

Despite the summer sluggishness, some investors are optimistic that the tech sector is set to post more gains. "People are focusing on the economy, and they like what they see," said Alfred Goldman, chief market strategist at A.G. & Edwards.

Goldman said he is certain that tech stocks, which have been extremely volatile since the spring market meltdown, will rise steadily in the coming months.

"If the economy continues to grow slowly, but at a more healthy pace, people are going to go after the growth stocks," Goldman said.

The CNET tech index gained 27.68 to 3,301.71. Advancers led decliners, with 72 of the 97 stocks in the index rising, 22 falling and three remaining unchanged.

Almost all of the 18 sectors tracked by CNET Investor posted gains. Computer-aided design and manufacturing companies led the pack, rising 4 percent. Computer-data storage companies brought up the rear, inching down 0.35 percent.

Next Level Communications was the largest percentage loser on the Nasdaq, falling $49.81, or 54 percent, to $41.75 on a volume of 24.9 million shares, nearly 83 times more than the stock's average daily trading volume.

Lehman Brothers cut its rating on the maker of equipment to deliver high-speed Internet and video services over telephone lines.

Shares of Vicinity lost their way after two brokers cut their ratings on the provider of business-location information over the Internet. Vicinity fell $2.13, or 15 percent, to $11.88.

American Management Systems, an information-technology consulting firm, fell $6.81, or 31 percent, to $15. The stock hit $14, a new 52-week low, compared to a high of $44.37.

A Mississippi jury told it to pay $474.50 million in a contract dispute with the state government. The company reported sales of $1.24 billion in 1999.

Shares of VA Linux Systems jumped $6.88, or 18.5 percent, to $44 after the company said fiscal fourth-quarter revenue rose more than sixfold.

Prakesh Patel, a WR Hambrecht open-source analyst, increased his rating on VA Linux to ''strong buy,'' from ''buy.'' Patel said the stock would reach $60 in a year.

Red Hat, a Durham, N.C.-based company that develops and provides open-source software and services, piggybacked on the success of VA Linux. Red Hat shares jumped 8 percent, or $1.94, to $24.75.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index squeaked up 6.44 to 1,163.44 led by chipmaker Rambus, which rose $1 to $90.19.

Shares of chipmaker Semtech rose $8.25, or 8 percent, to $111.63. The stock traded as high as $112.13, a new 52-week high compared to a low of $27 over the same duration.