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TECH STOCKS: Tech Stocks Slump In Broad Sector Retreat

By Benjamin Pimentel, MarketWatch SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Technology stocks were bruised Thursday, with memory-chip maker Micron Technology Inc. and business-software firm Red Hat Inc. among the notable decliners as the sector followed the broad market to close in the red. Leading the losses were more fears about the economic situation in Europe and data that lent credence to the Federal Reserve's concerns about the shaky state of the U.S. economy. The performance of Micron and Red Hat underscores recent concerns over pricing in the memory-chip market, as well as the health of corporate information-technology spending. Micron (MU) shares fell 48 cents, or almost 8%, to close at $5.65 after the chip maker reported a loss, taking a hit from weak pricing for memory chips. Wedbush analyst Betsy Van Hees wrote that "in the near term, we think the stock will likely be rangebound until there is better visibility" on a number of factors. She cited supply-and-demand trends for NAND chips in the second half of the year, and the potential impact of the expected release of Ultrabook notebooks based on Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8 software on the personal-computer market. However, she also maintained an outperform rating, citing Micron's comments on a stronger second half of the year. ThinkEquity's Suji De Silva also kept a buy rating on Micron, saying in a note: "We believe [Micron] is experiencing firming demand across DRAM, where supply is tightening due to competitor financial issues, and broader end-market demand is stabilizing." Separately, Red Hat (RHT) shares gave up $3.50, or more than 6%, to end the day at $53 after the software maker reported a weaker-than-expected outlook. Reacting to Red Hat's report, J.P. Morgan John DiFucci wrote: "We continue to remain cautious on global IT spending, especially in the coming months. That said, we believe the company continues to execute well against a weakening macro environment." Intel Corp. (INTC) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) also closed in the red as two of the worst performers on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (DJI) The blue-chip index fell 251 points, or almost 2%, to close at 12,573 as investors reacted to economic data, including the June Philadelphia Fed index which came in below consensus. The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) gave up 71 points, or 2.4%, to close at 2,859, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) was off by 4%. Declines also came from Seagate Technology (STX), Western Digital Corp. (WDC), Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Netflix Inc. (NFLX) Facebook Inc.(FB) was one of the few tech stocks to gain on the day, rising 24 cents a share to close at $31.84.

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