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STOCKS SLIGHTLY LOWER IN AFTERNOON

Stocks were modestly lower this afternoon as investors bristled at a disappointing profit report from Intel and signs of heavy consumer demand that could spur inflation.

At 3 p.m. the Dow Jones industrial average was down 15.23 at 8,081.06, recovering from an early 61-point drop.

Broader stock measures also fell as interest rates rose in the bond market after a stronger-than-expected reading on September's retail sales fueled worries the Federal Reserve may slow the economy to protect against inflation.

Even before the report, however, the market was bracing for a difficult session in the aftermath of late Tuesday's third-quarter profit report from Intel.

Intel said it earned $1.57 billion, or 88 cents a share, in the July-September quarter. That's a gain of 20 percent over profit of $1.31 billion, or 74 cents a share, a year ago.

Revenue also rose 20 percent, to $6.2 billion from $5.1 billion as the Intel posted record microprocessor shipments amid strong sales of its Pentium chips with multimedia-enhancing MMX technology.

Analysts, however, surveyed by IBES International had forecast average earnings of 91 cents a share.

They'll also have to revise the predictions for the rest of the year because of Intel's prediction that revenue and profit margins would be flat or only slightly higher over those in the third quarter, said Drew Peck, an analyst with Cowan & Co. in Boston.

Intel was down 5 3/8 at 86 1/2 , leading the Nasdaq composite index to a deficit of 11.72 at 1,721.07.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers 5-to-3 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Before the opening, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 0.3 percent in September, the fourth consecutive monthly increase.

Retail sales represent about a third of the economy's activity. While the economy is growing more slowly than earlier in the year, the data added to worries that the Fed may raise its short-term interest rates, slowing the pace of borrowing and spending to ease inflationary pressures.

Overseas today, Tokyo's Nikkei stock average rose 0.1 percent, Frankfurt's DAX index fell 0.2 percent and London's FT-SE 100 fell 0.7 percent.

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