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Roundup: US markets on 5 October

Dow down, Nikkei static

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There was disappointment that the Group of Seven meeting at the weekend in Washington reached no firm conclusions. Nasdaq took a pasting yesterday, falling five per cent, resulting in 30-year US Treasury bonds slumping further to 4.72 per cent interest -- the traditional haven after investors sell their shares. The Dow closed down only 58 points (0.75 per cent), having been down 200 at one stage. The Nikkei changed little overnight, but the Nikkei-225 is now around its lowest level since 1986. There were hopes that the Japanese government would act to stimulate the market. In London, the FTSE was down two per cent to close at its lowest point since June 1997, although it was moving ahead briskly this morning, up 81 at 9:40 am. All technology sectors suffered. Microsoft slid three per cent, and IBM five per cent. Cisco was punished (down 13 per cent) for getting involved with an FTC probe that alleges it tried to carve up the market with Lucent (down seven per cent) and Nortel (down four per cent), and was downgraded by financial analysts. Ciena was downgraded by Goldman Sachs and dropped 11 per cent. Oracle fell nine per cent followed from its disclosure to the SEC in a filing that discounts by competitors may have the effect of "significantly reducing the prices that the company can charge for its products". Aspen Technology, a developer of software for the design and management of oil refineries and other process industries, elaborated on Friday's warning, shocking investors by saying that its Q1 would result in a loss of 26c per share, instead of the 6c per share profit that had been expected. The result was a 54 per cent fall in its price. This is the second consecutive quarter in which Aspen has fallen short of expectations. The ERP sector was marked down by financial analysts, with Alex Brown now estimating earnings growth for the sector as an average of 25 per cent, instead of 30-33 per cent. PeopleSoft fell 15 per cent, JD Edwards dropped 14 per cent, and SAP eight per cent. AT&T gobbled up Vanguard, a cellular operator, for $1.5 billion in cash and stock, and assumed debt of $600 million. AT&T will now be able to plug some gaps in areas of the eastern US where it does not offer a cellular service. Motorola may be coming out of its restructuring programme successfully. It reported operating income of $40 million, considerably better than analysts' expectations, as it did in the previous quarter. Revenue was $7.15 billion, down three per cent on the previous year, giving a loss of $42 million after a one-time charge of $117 million for an acquisition, with net income $266 million. Its shares were marked up eight per cent after the market closed, having fallen to a 52-week low during the trading session. Motorola's share (by units) of the cellular phone market has dropped to around 24 per cent from 40 per cent a few years ago, because it has been slow to develop products, analysts say. An upturn in the second half of 1999 is anticipated by one analyst. Veritas Software, a storage management software specialist, agreed to acquire the Network and Storage Management Group of Seagate Software, a majority owned subsidiary of Seagate Technology in a share transaction worth $1.6 billion. The deal is second in size only to IBM's acquisition of Lotus for $3.5 billion in 1995. Veritas focuses on the Unix market, while Seagate is in the NT and NetWare market. Veritas sells through OEMs while Seagate works through distributors and resellers. The announcement was made after the market closed. ® Click for more stories

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