By Rex Crum Semiconductor stocks continued to push the tech sector upward in late trading Thursday in the wake of an upbeat report on chip-equipment sales and some positive economic data from both the U.S. and Europe. The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF), which lists many bellwether tech stocks, rose 50points, or 2.3%, to 2,209. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) climbed 3.2% and the Morgan Stanley High Tech 35 Index (MSH) was up more than 2%. Semiconductor stocks were among the biggest percentage gainers in the tech sector following an upbeat forecast on spending for semiconductor equipment from Gartner Inc. The Gartner report said that worldwide spending on semiconductor gear should grow 113% over the $16.6 billion spent in 2009. Gartner said demand for new chip technologies and devices should give the market a boost through the rest of the year. However, Gartner also warned that growth will likely not keep up such a hot pace in 2011. Among chip stocks, Lam Research Corp. (LRCX) rose $2.11, or 5.7%, to $39.20, Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) was up 33 cents, or 2.7%, at $12.52, Novellus Systems Inc. (NVLS) rose $1.46, or almost 6%, to $26.10 and STMicroelectronics (STM) rose 44 cents, or 5.6%, to $8.34. Gains also came from Intel Corp. (INTC), Nvidia Corp. (NVDA), Broadcom Corp. (BRCM) and Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN). A slip in initial U.S. unemployment claims, as well as gains by the euro against the U.S. dollar, was also seen as fueling investors' enthusiasm. Advances also came from IBM Corp. (IBM), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Dell Inc. (DELL), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Google Inc. (GOOG).