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STOCKS SLIDE ON APPLE WARNING

Stocks fell back into a slump today after Apple Computer's warning that its profits would be below expectations.

Apple's bad news came on the heels of one of Wall Street's best sessions since early summer. It drove down a market that has struggled to stay in positive territory this month.

At 1 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 100.93 at 10,723.13, erasing a good part of the nearly 196-point gain in the previous session.

Broader indicators were also lower after rising Thursday. The Nadaq composite index fell 60.78 to 3,717.54, and the Standard and Poor's 500 index declined 10.01 to 1,448.28.

"We're not in a free-falling, down bear market because the fundamentals for the U.S. economy remain superb," said Charles Pradilla, chief investment strategist at S.G. Cowen Securities. "But this is a very expensive market. We've had Intel and Apple warn and, if you owned those stocks, you got decimated."

The market has been down for most of September on anxiety third-quarter profits, higher energy prices and the weak European currency. Investors have been unloading stocks of companies that warn of below-expectations earnings, creating volatility throughout the markets, but especially in the technology sector.

The market got a rare respite from the anxiety Thursday, turning upward on technology and blue chips issues. But Apple's warning, which was issued after the markets closed, threatened to undo those gains.

The computer maker was down $27.06 to $26.44, a 50 percent loss, in early trading, a day after investors pushed the stock up 9 percent.

Rival computer makers also declined. Dell Computer, the world's No. 1 direct seller of computers, slid 1.44 to 32.

Gateway lost 6.95 from its New York Stock Exchange close to 48.95. International Business Machines, the largest computer maker, fell 1.63 to 116.31, and Compaq Computer, the biggest maker of personal computers, fell 1.67 to 29 on the NYSE. Hewlett-Packard, the world's No. 1 maker of computer printers, slid 6 to 100.88 on the Big Board.

Several analysts lowered their ratings on Apple and other computer companies. Andrew Neff of Bear, Stearns & Co. cut Apple, Gateway, Dell, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. analyst Gillian Munson reduced ratings on Apple and Gateway. Donald Young at PaineWebber Inc. and Steven Fortuna at Merrill Lynch & Co. cut ratings on Apple.

Neff said a host of potential problems in the computer industry spurred his downgrades, ranging from Apple's warning to concern about weak computer demand in Europe, to other recent warnings about slowing revenue, including Intel's last week and Lexmark International Inc.'s on Monday.

Intel declined 1.06 to 43.38. The world's largest computer chipmaker delayed delivery of its new Pentium 4 processor, Cnet News.com reported, citing unidentified PC makers. That would make it difficult for PC makers to produce Pentium 4 computers in time for the holidays, Cnet said.

Chip-related shares also dropped on concern falling computer sales will eat into demand for semiconductors. Micron Technology fell 3.50 to 47.25 on the NYSE, and Applied Materials lost 1.19 to 62.69. KLA-Tencor lost 1.50 to 43.81 and Rambus fell 2.50 to 79.25.

Microsoft fell 75 cents to 60.56. The software maker said co-founder Paul Allen plans to leave the board and will continue as a senior strategy adviser to Microsoft, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Mattel dropped 56 cents to 11.06. The toy company said it sold its Learning Co. unit, purchased in 1999 for $3.6 billion, which will result in an after-tax loss of $430 million.

The company also cut its dividend to 5 cents a year from 9 cents and will record pretax third-quarter charges of about $100 million. Mattel announced a restructuring that includes the elimination of 350 jobs.

UAL slid 3.38 to 40.50 after the parent of No. 1 air carrier United Airlines said it will lose money in the third quarter and probably the fourth quarter. Analysts expected the company would earn 97 cents a share in the third quarter and 63 cents in the fourth. UAL cited higher fuel costs and labor disruptions.

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