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Oracle's glitch sinks tech shares Add to ...

Oracle Corp.'s lower-than-expected results are raising fears that companies are delaying investments on technology amid concern that the global economy may slow.

The database giant's stock plunged the most in almost a decade in New York on Wednesday and triggered a rout in technology shares across Europe and North America.

Unlike most firms, Oracle has a fiscal quarter that ends Nov. 30. Its earnings, reported after the close of market Tuesday, provided investors with a relatively up-to-the-moment glimpse into whether large corporate purchasers are cutting back – and the news wasn't good.

“The concern is whether the macro-economic climate has declined in recent weeks and whether that's causing a shift in customer-spending intentions,” said Thanos Moschopoulos, a Canadian software analyst in Toronto at BMO Nesbitt Burns. “We have this data point which is Oracle, one of the largest tech companies, coming in with disappointing numbers, and that's what's prompting the caution. What the market's saying today is: maybe it's broader than just Oracle.”

Technology shares suffered the only decline among the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 and had the biggest drop among 19 groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Oracle, the world's second-biggest maker of software, plunged 11.7 per cent, the steepest decline in the U.S. benchmark index. SAP AG, a large German rival, fell the most in Europe.

The U.S. company reported profit before some costs last quarter of 54¢ (U.S.) a share and revenue of $8.81-billion, compared with the 54¢ a share and $9.23-billion expected on average by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The company forecast its sales will rise between 1 per cent and 5 per cent this quarter, well below the 7.4 per cent that had been estimated by analysts.

“Oracle is really a bellwether and the number was surprisingly weak, and that does not bode well for the industry outlook,” said Mark Lin, who holds Oracle shares in the technology fund he manages in Montreal for CIBC Global Asset Management Inc.

“Oracle posted a substantial shortfall for a company that is typically quite predictable,” Richard Davis and David Hynes, analysts at Canaccord Genuity Corp., said in a research report. The analysts cut their investment rating on Oracle's stock to “hold” from “buy.”

Wednesday's rout in technology shares led to decreases of more than 3 per cent at companies ranging from Accenture Plc and Amazon.com Inc. to Citrix Systems Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Celestica Inc. fell 1.8 per cent, and Open Text Corp. sank 5.4 per cent, while Canada’s benchmark stock index rose.

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