tech manufacturing

Tough tell for tech manufacturing

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Unnervedtechinvestors take it outFlextronics and Jabil.

By Scott Moritz, writer
September 18, 2008:2:32PMEDT

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NEW YORK (Fortune) -- The slumping demand for tech gearwouldseemto point to a surging supply of unsold equipment.

At least that's what Cowen analyst Lou Miscioscia cautionsinaresearch note Thursday.

After a series of bleak forecasts from big shopslikeDell(DELL, Fortune 500), Nortel andNokiathere is a cloud ofuncertainty hovering over theelectronicsmanufacturing servicessector, Miscioscia writes. Thisis the groupof contractmanufacturers, including Flextronics(FLEX), Sanmina-SCI (SANM, Fortune 500)and Jabil (JBL, Fortune 500), which have takenonmuch of theproduct assembly duties that tech companiesexitedduring thecost-cutting and streamlining trends of the pastdecade.

Flextronics' shares are down 21%, Sanmina down 19%, andJabildowna whopping 42% in the past month, as investorsquestionwhetherbusiness for this group can avoid slipping iftheircustomers'sbusinesses are in a slide.

Not willing to wait for the answer, Miscioscia dialedbackhissales and profit estimates for the group Thursday by about6%,andcautioned investors to wait until some "morevisibilityemerges."

Calls for comment to the three companies werenotimmediatelyreturned.

The overall view on tech spending remains a mixedpicture.Weakoutfits like Nortel paint a bleakscene, cutting outlookandlaying out plans to exit seeminglypromising businesses.Dell'ssecondwarning in two weeks setoffalarms. And Nokia's announcementthat cash-strapped consumersarelooking for cheaper phones orputting off their trade-insreflectssome of the pressures of higherliving expenses.

But other players like Cisco (CSCO,Fortune 500) and IBM (IBM, Fortune 500), whileacknowledgingthe economic challenges in some of their big markets,haven't beencompelled to temper their outlooks. Yet after a week ofafull-blown credit crisis in the U.S. financial market, itseemsthat calm may not last.

"There is the concern that if the stock marketdoesn'tstabilizesoon, what happens on Wall Street will alter thebuyingplans ofMain Street," Miscioscia writes. "However," he adds,"weare nothearing that business is falling off a cliff."

But, one might add, we are certainly listening. To top of page

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