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AOL Rattles Tech Sector With Losses

The company received mention in this week's <I>Barron's</I> as an overvalued stock.

SAN FRANCISCO -- It had all the makings of a quiet week. A decided lack of direction in the market, combined with a holiday next week, could have kept many players sidelined. But there's no rest for the technology sector, as much of the news in the market today revolves around it.

Internet stocks have been mostly lower this morning, as they continue to see selling pressure that began late last week. Contributing to the weakness are losses in

America Online

(AOL)

, which was mentioned as being overvalued by Howard Ward, manager of the

Gabelli Growth fund

in this week's

Barron's

. Shares of AOL were trading down 5 11/16, 5%, at 120 3/4.

Ward was bullish on both

Intel

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and

IBM

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, though his comments have not helped those stocks today. Intel was down 1/4 at 56 3/4 early on, while IBM was off 5/16 at 201 1/16.

Visual Data

(VDAT)

is trading lower despite news from the company that it will team with

broadcast.com

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on a new online travel video channel.

The channel, which will be hosted on the broadcast.com Web site, will offer insight and information to travelers planning vacations and business trips and will include video tours of hotels, resorts, timeshare properties, golf courses and attractions using Visual Data's video libraries. It is scheduled to launch in June. Visual Data was off 3 7/8, or 11%, at 32 1/8 in early trading, experiencing the same losses seen among much of the Internet sector. broadcast.com was off 2 1/4, or 2%, at 109.

AboveNet Communications

(ABOV)

was firmer after it said it will purchase the Palo Alto Internet Exchange, or PAIX, from

Compaq

(CPQ)

. AboveNet will pay $70 million in cash and approximately $5 million in services to Compaq in exchange for PAIX.

CIBC World Markets

reiterated its strong buy rating on AboveNet this morning, saying the acquisition "cements AboveNet's place in the Internet connectivity big leagues along with

TheStreet Recommends

MCI WorldCom

(WCOM)

,

Sprint

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, and

Cable & Wireless

(CWP)

." AboveNet was trading up 9/16, or 1%, at 34 1/4 early on.

Texas Instruments

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was trading higher following an upgrade this morning from

Prudential Securities

. Prudential raised its rating to strong buy from accumulate and increased its 12-month price target to 146 from 130. Shares of Texas Instruments were up 1 1/8, or 1%, at 114 1/8.

Analyst Hans Mosesmann made the upgrade following a meeting with TI management on Friday and said that "the enthusiasm, energy, and degree of focus in DSPs and analog exhibited by TI is contagious." Additionally, he said "we are at the at the early stages of a cyclical semiconductor recovery which has led us to upgrade the stocks of several 'fabed' semiconductor companies in recent weeks." Prudential upgraded both

STMicroelectronics

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and

Atmel

(ATML)

on May 12 to strong buy from accumulate.

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

made the news on a couple of fronts. Late Friday, the company said it would repurchase $2 billion of stock. H-P also received mentioned in

Alan Abelson's

Up & Down Wall Street column in

Barron's

.

Abelson reports on recent commentary from

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi

analyst Michael Niemira that is bearish on computer makers and chip producers. Niemira notes that Commerce Department figures show final sales of computers fell by nearly $6 billion (in current dollars), which was the first decline since the December quarter of 1997. Real final sales of computers in January through March were up only 3.5%, a sharp drop from the 46.6% clip they grew at during the fourth quarter of 1998.

H-P was off 1 3/8, or 1.5%, at 92 1/2 this morning after it rose sharply last week on strong earnings news.