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Wall Street Beat: Tech shares up for Q3, but face uncertainty

Marc Ferranti | Oct. 1, 2012
Shares of technology companies finished up for the third quarter Friday, but face economic uncertainty for the rest of the year.

Beleaguered smartphone maker Research in Motion reported its quarterly earnings Thursday, saying revenue fell year over year to $2.9 billion, compared with $4.2 billion.

The company's sales, however, edged out the consensus estimate of analyst polled by Thomson Reuters, of $2.5 billion. RIM's loss of $235 million was better than the $518 million loss in the prior quarter.

Though market analysts have cut forecasts for global IT spending this year, they still expect overall increases. Forrester earlier this month estimated that 2012 IT spending growth would be 3.6 percent, lower than its January prediction of 5.3 percent.

IDC said that it forecasts worldwide IT spending to increase 6 percent this year in constant currency, just under last year's 7 percent rise. (The difference between the figures from different research companies lies mainly in how they define various categories of IT, notably software, services and communications.)

The overall jump in tech shares in the third quarter, however, likely has more to do with moves on the part of central bankers in the U.S. and Europe to spur their respective economies, than it does with the performance of any particular tech vendor. The tech-heavy Nasdaq, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, representing large companies, and the broad-based S&P 500 all closed Friday up for the quarter.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's announcement earlier this month that it would launch the so-called "QE3," a third round of "quantitative easing," was widely perceived as fueling a general run up in stocks. The Fed said it would buy bonds and possibly other assets until the unemployment rate eases.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank has promised to buy the bonds of debt-ridden nations in return for budget-cutting austerity measures.

But protests over European austerity measures in recent days in Spain and Greece raise questions about whether politicians will be able to push through budget cuts, raising uncertainty about the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, a slump in the markets this week was widely ascribed to actions of investors cashing in shares to take profits before the U.S. economy hits the fiscal cliff. The S&P 500 index, for example, has declined eight of the last nine days, dropping by 6.48 to close at 1,440.67 Friday.

U.S. government economic reports have been mixed. Orders for durable goods dropped 13.2 percent in August while a new report showed that the U.S. economic output grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent between April and June, down from the previously reported 1.7 percent gain.


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