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TECH STOCKS: Tech Stocks Close With Mild Gains

By Rex Crum Technology stocks flagged late in the session Wednesday as many sector leaders saw gains trimmed or erased ahead of the latest earnings report from Cisco Systems Inc. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) gave up all of its gains to shed 1.8 points and close at 2,055. However, the Morgan Stanley High Tech 35 Index (MSH) and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) posted small gains. Among tech stocks, advances came Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), IBM Corp. (IBM), Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN). Cisco (CSCO) shares rose 38 cents to $23.29 ahead of the networking giant's fiscal first-quarter report, due after the market's close. Analysts are expecting Cisco to earn 31 cents a share on $8.7 billion in sales. Intel Corp. (INTC) shares rose 23 cents to $18.59. Earlier in the day, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed an antitrust suit against the world's largest semiconductor company, charging it with "bribery and coercion to maintain a stranglehold" on the chip market. Much of the market spent the day awaiting the results of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee, which decided to keep the target for the fed funds rate between zero and 0.25%. While many tech stocks rose, some notable decliners emerged. STEC Inc. (STEC) shares plunged $9.01, or almost 39%, to $14.14 after the maker of flash-memory storage and solid-state drives said that one of its top customers, EMC Corp. (EMC), would carry its 2009 inventory over into 2010. The EMC decision is seen as potentially harming STEC's first-quarter results next year and a sign that demand for product replacements could be slowing. Maxwell Technologies Inc. (MXWL), a maker of power-management technology products, saw its shares fall $2.67, or more than 14%, to $16.29 as analysts at Piper Jaffray cut their rating on the company's stock to underweight from neutral. However, analysts at Needham & Co. raised their rating on Maxwell to buy from hold following the company's third-quarter results and fourth-quarter outlook.

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