Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Semiconductor sales boost US tech stocks


US technology stocks rose on Friday as investors welcomed data showing a strong rise in semiconductor sales last month, but blue-chips stayed near unchanged as a boost in confidence after US President George W. Bush's visit to Iraq was offset by worries over a weak dollar.

The lack of any definitive data on the early strength of the holiday shopping season kept a lid on gains. Activity was muted on a thinly staffed Wall Street in a shortened session the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, historically one of the slowest days of the year.

Investors are now waiting for more data next week likely to show the US economic recovery is accelerating.

"People are making sure portfolios are positioned for more good economic news early next week," said Frederic Dickson, director of retail research at DA Davidson & Co in Portland, Oregon. "Those who did come to work today were looking at the dollar, which set a new record low against the euro. That may have taken a bit of damper from Bush's surprise visit to Iraq, which should have been a morale booster to the troops and the market."

At the early 1pm close, The technology-focused NASDAQ Composite Index ended up 6.95 points, or 0.36 percent, at 1,960.26.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched up its fifth straight winning session, up 2.89 points, or 0.03 percent, at 9,782.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed down 0.25 point, or 0.02 percent, at 1,058.20.

The major indexes were all up for the week, reversing two previous weeks of losses. The Dow rose 1.6 percent for the week, NASDAQ rose 3.5 percent, while the S&P 500 was up 2.2 percent.

For the month of November, the Dow fell 0.2 percent, NASDAQ was up 1.5 percent and the S&P 500 added 0.7 percent. The Dow has risen in seven of the last nine months, while the S&P 500 has gained in eight of the last nine months. November's gain for the NASDAQ marked the ninth monthly gain in the last 10 months.

Technology stock trading on Friday was dominated by a report showing that global sales of semiconductors in October had their strongest month-on-month growth since March last year, on the back of strong demand for a wide range of electronics products, according to a monthly industry survey.

Chip equipment maker Applied Materials Inc was one of the strongest gainers, rising 51 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $24.30. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index was up 1.2 percent.

Retailers were also in focus on Friday, which marks one of the year's biggest spending days and the start of the crucial holiday shopping season. With a lack of any hard data on the shape of the holiday spending season, sector bellwether Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's biggest company by revenue, dipped US$0.06 to US$55.64. The Standard & Poor's retail index rose 0.35 percent.

Schering-Plough Corp shares topped the New York Stock Exchange's most active list, on news that its chief executive bought US$4.68 million worth of company stock. Its shares rose US$0.67, or 4.4 percent, to close at US$16.05.

About 486 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, making the shortened Friday session the lowest volume day so far this year.

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