Tech Stocks Rally And Apple Gains More Than 4%

Merrill Lynch has released a report saying that PC sales will continue to be weak during the 1st half of this year. This is largely based on a survey the investment firm did in Taiwan with the component suppliers that supply most of the computer motherboards and laptops to the world. Those manufacturers serve as a leading indicator for PC demand, and all indications are that the 1st and 2nd quarter will continue to be sluggish. Demand is also expected to pick up in the 3rd and 4th quarters of this year, though not in the consumer sector. This coupled with the news from Dataquest that server sales were strong in the 4th quarter of last year has sent hardware stocks into a rally today.

Also impacting computer hardware stocks was Sun Microsystems. Sun announced a new initiative called OpenNet that is designed to compete with Microsoftis .Net. Note the thinly veiled attack on Microsoftis proprietary approach. Sunis CEO Scott McNealy has a long running nasty relationship with Microsoft and its founder Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer. The two companies are duking it out for the corporate and server markets. OpenNet helped fuel the rally in technology.

In other news, Cisco reported their earnings after the closing bell. For the first time in 14 quarters, the company missed analyst projections by a penny. In all those preceding quarters, the company had consistently beat estimates. Cisco was one of the 1st tech companies to make a large portion of their employee compensation stock options, and Cisco has been considered a technology bell-weather. Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting Ciscois results to see if they too were falling victim to the economic slowdown. Despite missing projections, the company still turned in strong year over year gains, but a small sequential gain over last quarter. Gross margins also declined to a (still staggeringly high) 61% as well. Ciscois stock dropped in after hours trading. Analysts are busily pulling apart the numbers to get the real story, and initial reports are that these numbers are not actually as good as they seem. This will likely impact the entire tech sector.

The rest of the investment community is still worried about the slowing economy and their are continued calls/prognostication for more cuts in interest rates from the Fed.

Apple was specifically cited as facing trouble growing sales throughout the year due to continued softness in the consumer space, exacerbated by the fact that they will, along with Gateway, face continuing pressure from Internet Appliances. This flies in the face of Steve Jobsi Digital Hub concept and Appleis stance that Internet Appliances will not replace the PC. Apple still managed to post a strong gain today, as the companyis stock rallied with other hardware issues. Todayis trading range was 20 - 21 7/16.

Apple closed at 21 1/8, a gain of 15/16 (+4.64%) on volume of 8,258,000 shares trading hands.

The Nasdaq closed at 2664.49, a gain of 21.28 (+0.81%).

The Dow flirted with 1100, and actually passed that mark in afternoon trading, only to fall back and close with a small loss led by financial issues. The Dow closed at 10957.42, down 8.43 (-0.08%).

The S&P 500 joined the Dow in negative territory to close at 1352.13, off by 2.18 (-0.16%).

Akamai regained some off yesterdayis losses to close at 25 13/16, up 15/16 (+3.77%) on volume of 2,222,800 shares trading hands. Apple is a major shareholder of Akamai.

Adobe gave back some of yesterdayis gains. The stock closed at 44, down a point (-3.03%) on volume of 6,828,000 shares trading hands.

IBM closed at 114.19, a gain of 1.97 (+1.76%) on volume of 7,467,300 shares trading hands.

Motorola won a fat contract in the telecom industry and announced demonstrated a 256k MRAM chip. MOTO closed at 20.85, a gain of 0.44 (+2.16%) on volume of 10,672,100 shares trading hands.

Earthlink closed lower today at 9 3/16, down by 7/32 (-2.33%) on volume of 1,308,300 shares trading hands.

Gateway, the other consumer PC company that will be hard hit along with Apple, also posted a gain in todayis trading, like Apple. The stock closed at 20.75, a gain of 1.07 (+5.44%) on volume of 2,832,800 shares trading hands.

Dell closed up almost 10% at 26 7/8, a gain of 2 7/16 (+9.97%) on strong volume of 50,926,800 shares trading hands.

Hewlett Packard closed at 36.80, up 1.50 (+4.25%) on volume of 5,263,800 shares trading hands.

Intel closed at 35 7/16, a gain of 3/4 (+2.16%) on volume of 40,191,400 shares trading hands.

Microsoft joined in the ascending chorus to close at 62 9/16, a gain of 5/8 (+1.01%) on volume of 47,880,800 shares trading hands.

For full quotes on all the companies mentioned in this article, we have assembled this set of quotes at Yahoo! for your reference. For other stories regarding Appleis stock activity, visit our updated Apple Stock Watch Special Report. You can also check out our Apple Financial Boards, a new moderated forum for Apple Investors and people who are interested in Appleis financial dealings.