A Goldman Sachs survey of 100 of the top IT managers in the U.S. found that spending remains weak in the sector, and a recovery is now expected in mid-2004 or later.

Analyst Laura Conigliaro said in the report Monday that the number of chief information officers who don't foresee an upturn in spending until the second half of 2004 or beyond rose to 47% from 29% in June.

"Our panel's increasingly more conservative view towards spending acceleration shows that, despite a bottoming of sentiment, CIOs are proceeding with caution," the report said.

According to the survey, which is taken every two months, IT spending plans rose 0.2% in August from a 0.4% decrease in June, and technology capital spending fell 1.7%, from a 0.8% decline previously.

However, 57% of purchasing managers said their budgets are below their initial plans for the year, and some intend to spend later in 2003 what was left over from earlier in the year.

Although spending projections for 2004 "may be unexciting," the survey said the early figures are still higher than in 2003, with managers forecasting overall IT budget growth of 2.3% and a technology capital spending increase of 3.9%.

In terms of the top share-gainers, the survey said

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

were the best in the hardware sector, while

EMC

(EMC)

,

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

and

Storage Tech

(STK) - Get Report

were the leading performers in storage.

BMC

(BMC)

,

Mercury Interactive

(MERQ)

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Red Hat

(RHAT)

and

Symantec

(SYMC) - Get Report

were the notable share winners in the software sector.