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News > Technology
Cisco isn't calling a recovery
The networking giant said comments about a tech rebound in 2 to 4 months were misinterpreted.
July 9, 2003: 1:44 PM EDT
By Paul R. La Monica, CNN/Money Senior Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - An alleged bullish forecast by Cisco Systems caused quite a stir Wednesday morning -- too bad the report wasn't quite right.

According to a Dutch newspaper report Wednesday, Cisco CEO John Chambers told a gathering of reporters that a recovery in corporate IT spending was likely in the next two to four months and that in the two to six quarters following that, telecoms should start boosting their spending as well.

However, a spokeswoman for Cisco said that the comments were misinterpreted and that Chambers was speaking in general terms about how an eventual recovery would pan out. Apparently, he was not "calling his shot" a la Babe Ruth.

That didn't matter to Wall Street. Shares of Cisco (CSCO: Research, Estimates) were up about 1.3 percent as of Wednesday afternoon. And networking competitors Nortel (NT: Research, Estimates), Juniper Networks (JNPR: Research, Estimates) and Ciena (CIEN: Research, Estimates) were also trading higher.

In any event, tech industry observers were quick to point out that the remarks, misinterpreted or not, were hardly earth-shattering.

"This is not new news but it carries a lot of weight coming from Chambers," said Sunil Reddy, manager of the Fifth Third Technology fund. "The message is that things are not getting worse."

Indeed, there have been a few signs pointing to a possible improvement in tech spending. According to figures released by the National Association of Business Economics on Tuesday, 57 percent of the businesses polled expect to increase spending on computers and communication equipment over the next 12 months and only 6 percent see a decrease.

Even so, a dramatic rebound is far from guaranteed, and there still are pockets of weakness. "Things continue to be difficult -- software management teams and salespeople are not seeing a pickup in software buying," said David Hilal, who covers enterprise software companies for Friedman Billings Ramsey.

Recovery already priced in

Another problem is that a big recovery may already be priced into shares of Cisco and other networking firms, according to Timm Bechter, a networking equipment analyst for Legg Mason.

After all, Cisco's stock has surged 46 percent this year. Shares of Juniper, which will report its second quarter earnings Thursday, are up 123 percent.

So even if the economy does get marginally better in the second half, it will be tough for tech stocks to continue their stellar run unless there is a significant improvement.

"Some investors are waiting for economic confirmation so they can purchase tech stocks, but by the time you get the confirmation, you've already missed out on most of the rally," said Bob Straus, co-manager of the Icon Information Technology fund. Straus said that techs still have a little more room to run but not much.

True, the "100-year flood" that Chambers compared the tech downturn to back in April 2001 may be finally over. But that doesn't mean the sun has broken completely through the clouds just yet.  Top of page

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