By Rex Crum, MarketWatch
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- A late-session surge by Dell Inc. added to what already had been a day of strong gains for the tech sector on Wednesday, as the PC maker's shares rose following a report that investor activist Car Icahn has taken a large position in the company.
Dell (DELL) shares ended the day up nearly 2% to close at $14.32 after CNBC reported that Icahn purchased nearly 100 million of the company's shares. The move comes as the company is battling some of its larger shareholders over a pending privatization deal that values Dell at $13.65 per share.
Dell's rise added to the lift for the sector, which was already enjoying its second session of gains that put the Dow at a fresh record high. Dow components Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) led the way with gains of more than 2% each, along with strong upticks by Intel Corp.(INTC) and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM)
Those four tech bellwethers' gains added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average's (DJI) advance, with the index rising 42 points to close at 14,296. Also helping give the market a boost were the latest numbers on private-sector jobs from Automatic Data Processing Inc. The ADP report said the private sector added a better-than-expected 198,000 jobs in February. See: Private-sector jobs growth beats expectations.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) failed to join in the day's gains, as the company's shares gave up 1.3% to close at $425.66 after Citigroup and Barclays Capital both cut their price targets on the stock, citing projections for lower iPhone and iPad sales in the March quarter. Read: Apple targets cut as brokers see slowdown
Among other tech stocks, Tibco Software Inc. (TIBX) shares rose more than 11%, to close at $23.37, after Bank of America/Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Ragan raised his rating on the company to buy from neutral and reiterated his price target of $26 a share. Ragan said that with Tibco not warning on its quarterly results before the report's March 21 release, the potential for a negative report has been limited.
Groupon Inc. (GRPN) gave up its early gains to fall 6% and close at $5.29 a share. On Tuesday, Groupon Chief Financial Officer Jason Child told a tech conference that the company wasn't planning on any major changes in strategy as it searches for a new CEO. See: Groupon faces questions about future direction.
There were also reports from Bloomberg saying that Groupon will focus on CEO candidates from outside the company, with a goal of hiring a new CEO within three to six months.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) shares were trimmed by almost 1% to close at $28.09. On Wednesday, the European Union fined the software giant $733 million for failing to offer consumers a choice of Web browser other than Microsoft's own Explorer with new versions of the Windows operating system.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) ended the day down by almost 2 points at 3,222, while the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) and the Morgan Stanley High-Tech Index (MSH) each closed with small gains.
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