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Despite a flood of estimate cuts, shares of semiconductor-equipment maker

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Applied Materials, Inc. Report

were slightly higher Thursday, a day after the company mostly matched estimates but announced a steep drop in orders.

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Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse First Boston, Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Banc of America Securities all reduced earnings estimates for the company after Wednesday's report, in which Applied said orders would fall 20% sequentially in the current quarter.

Recently Applied was up 76 cents, or 5.7%, to $14.88 in a trading day that saw most of the major averages recording gains.

Investors may be cottoning to the notion that the current quarter for Applied, the first of its fiscal-year 2003, may prove to be a bottom for the company. In a note Thursday morning, Morgan Stanley's Steven Pelayo wrote that Applied's projection for the order drop dictates business may bottom in the quarter, given flat capital spending. Pelayo rates Applied overweight and his company intends to seek payment for investment banking business in the next three months.