A trio of surveys released Monday point to continued improvement in spending for hardware, software and semiconductors throughout 2004.

Despite roundly upbeat findings, the separate surveys from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and market research firm IDC were having little positive impact on tech shares Monday. The Nasdaq 100 was recently down 1.3%, while the Merrill Lynch Tech 100 was off 1.5% and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index was down 2.5%.

Goldman Sachs' latest bimonthly survey of 100 chief information officers found that the CIOs are more bullish about spending on information technology than they've been in more than two years. "Importantly, this is beginning to translate into higher IT budget forecasts," said Goldman technology analyst Laura Conigliaro.

Long-term spending targets, Goldman found, are also rising, now approaching 6%, "a level far more normal than the depressed forecasts we saw over the last two years."

Significantly, the manufacturing sector, which accounts for about 14% of the demand for technology products, is raising capital expenditures, with Goldman forecasting 16% growth in capex this year, vs. a 13% decline in 2003. Other sectors, including financials and communications, also reported growth in capex.

Asked which enterprise server and systems providers "are gaining share of your IT spending dollars," the CIOs listed (in order) Dell ( DELL), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and IBM ( IBM).

"Dell's strength probably also stems from its high association with Linux among our IT users while H-P is undoubtedly benefiting from similar trends, as well as its broad based set of server product offerings," Conigliaro wrote.

Sun Microsystems ( SUNW) was the biggest loser, according to the survey.

"Although the majority of our IT users who are Sun customers plan to replace their existing Sun servers with new ones from Sun, and Sun's Solaris operating system scored high with its customers, Sun's core SPARC-based servers fared poorly compared with AMD- and Intel-based choices, highlighting the mix and margin issues that Sun is facing," the Goldman survey said.

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