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Dow Jones Industrial Average

would be trading 2,000 points higher if its tech components would wake up from the dead and do their share of the heavy lifting. Of course, that isn't likely to happen -- these old-school giants have been dragging down the venerable index for years now, unable to transform their business dominance into share appreciation.

Just look at


(MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report

, which has been wobbling in the mid-$20s for most of the last 10 years. Tell me, just how many new operating systems, search engines, office applications and gaming consoles will it take to lift this behemoth out of its permanent doldrums and into a decent uptrend?

Or what about


(HPQ) - Get HP Inc. Report

, which consistently over-promises and under-delivers to its long-suffering shareholders? The company went out of its way this year to lower expectations with an exceptionally dumb scandal involving former CEO Mark Hurd. In all seriousness, it takes real talent for a computer hardware monopoly to sell off to a 52-week low.

Chip giant


(INTC) - Get Intel Corporation Report

makes great processors, but that hasn't translated into stock performance in the last decade. In fact, it ranks 26th in Dow performance this year -- quite a feat for a company that has a single ten-thumbed competitor. Perhaps if we called its computer chips "toasters" or "typewriters," we'd better understand why Intel has failed to capitalize on perfect industry positioning.

Finally, there's

TheStreet Recommends

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

, which for some unfathomable reason has a 23-year-old spokeswoman who's best known for playing an unmarried pregnant teenager in


(OK, she was pretty cool in


, but you get the point). In sum, here's another near monopoly that has defied stock growth for a generation. Good job, guys.

Is there any hope at all for these bewildering tech giants? Let's look at the weekly charts and see where they currently stand in their perpetual battle for mediocrity.

Microsoft topped out at $54 at the end of 1999 and dropped to $18 one year later. It then settled into a trading range between that low and the mid-$30s. The stock dipped briefly to $15 near the end of most recent bear market and bounced back toward range resistance in the first quarter of this year.

Price has settled just above the midpoint of the 2009 rally, testing that level in July and August. It now shows little buying interest, despite a four-week recovery that has lifted the broad market to multi-month highs. The prognosis for this software giant is mixed at best, with an expanding range that goes as high as $27 or as low as $21.

Hewlett-Packard sold off from $65 to $10 when the tech bubble burst and then entered a steady uptrend that stalled about 12 points under the historic high in 2007. The credit collapse in 2008 dumped the stock to a three-year low, which wasn't that bad considering the abysmal performance of its tech peers.

The recovery that started in 2009 ended right at the two-year high, with the stock selling off violently during the May "flash crash." It took another dive in August when Hurd was canned and has now settled under major resistance (red zone) in the lower $40s. While investors are moving cautiously back into this issue, it probably won't trade over $45 for the rest of 2010.

Intel hit its all-time high at $78 in 2000 and then fell from grace, collapsing to $13 in October 2002. It has ground through a series of lower highs since that time, with rally failures in 2003, 2007 and again in March of this year. Note how these broad tops align roughly with the 200-week moving average, which has now been pointed lower for a decade.

Look at the trend line formed by the rising lows between 2002 and 2008: The stock broke that long-term support level in September 2008 and pulled back to new resistance earlier this year. The subsequent selloff confirms the long-term downtrend, with the stock vulnerable to a renewed decline that breaks the deep low at $12.

Analysts pound the tables constantly, telling us to buy Cisco, but this tech stock's glory days have long since past. The once-iconic issue topped out at $82 in 2000 and plunged into single digits just two years later. The subsequent recovery unfolded in two waves, with the second one coming to rest near $34 in 2007.

The stock settled at a five-year low after the 2008-09 decline and retraced 62% of its lost ground, topping out at $27.70 in April of this year. The summer selloff did extensive technical damage, with the stock now trading under steep resistance (red square) between $22 and $24. I'd avoid this issue like the plague until it finally mounts that zone of conflict.

At the time of publication, Farley had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.

Alan Farley is a private trader and publisher of

Hard Right Edge

, a comprehensive resource for trader education, technical analysis, and short-term trading techniques. He is also the author of

The Daily Swing Trade

, a premium product from that outlines his charts and analysis. Farley has also been featured in





Tech Week


Active Trader




Technical Investor


Bridge Trader


Online Investor

. He has written two books:

The Master Swing Trader


The Master Swing Trader Toolkit: The Market Survival Guide

, due out in April. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks.

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