Tech stocks continue to rally

Investors newly enthusiastic about tech stocks extended the sector’s rally in the United States today after Dell Computer became the second big high-tech firm in as many days to issue a positive earnings outlook.

Investors newly enthusiastic about tech stocks extended the sector’s rally in the United States today after Dell Computer became the second big high-tech firm in as many days to issue a positive earnings outlook.

Blue chip stocks had a modest retreat.

Dell’s news, along with a similar forecast from Cisco Systems on Wednesday, bolstered investors’ confidence that the economy will rebound after last month’s terrorist attacks.

The market finished well off its highs of the day as profit-taking set in, but Wall Street maintained the positive tone that has defined much of this week’s trading.

The focus on tech hurt the Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 62.90 to 9,060.88 after having been up as much as 63 points, according to preliminary calculations.

The Dow’s loss was small compared to the 173 points it gained Wednesday to close above the 9,000 level for the first time since the September 11 terrorists attacks.

The blue chips have regained 825 points, or 60%, of the 1,369 they lost in the first week of trading after the assaults on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.

Meanwhile, the broader market was mixed Thursday. The Nasdaq composite index rose 16.71 to 1,597.52 after advancing 88 Wednesday, its biggest daily point gain since the attacks. The tech-dominated index was up as much as 60 points Thursday before giving back some ground.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 2.66 to 1,069.62.

Analysts said the tech advance was not surprising given the overall market’s losses following the attacks.

But they do not expect the market to move much higher for the remainder of the year, or until it is clearer when the economy will recover and how the United States will retaliate for the assaults.

‘‘This rally is basically about getting you back to where you should be so long as nothing else terrible happens,’’ said Charles Pradilla, chief investment strategist for SG Cowen Securities.

Among Thursday’s winners were the two tech bellwethers that affirmed their earnings estimates. Dell rose 1.68 dollars, or 8%, to 22.32 dollars, while Cisco advanced 47 cents to 14.42 dollars.

Wall Street has rarely seen such positive outlooks even before the attacks, having had to grapple instead with profit warnings and layoff announcements.

The market was especially encouraged that the upbeat news came from the tech sector, which has been hit the hardest by the slowing economy.

The Dow’s winners were mostly technology stocks as IBM rose 36 cents to 97.31 dollars, Microsoft advanced 21 cents to 56.44 dollars and Intel climbed 32 cents to 21.55 dollars.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 1.56 billion shares, compared with the 1.67 billion shares traded Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, rose 3.98 to 417.20.

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