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Business Spending Drives Tech Optimism For New Year

BOSTON (AP) -- The corporate spending that drives the technology sector is as strong as it has been since the end of the 1990s boom, giving the industry optimism as it heads into 2004.

"This is not a burst. This is a sustainable interest," said Bill Zadrozny, chief executive of Siemens Financial Services, which helps businesses lease and finance new technology investments. "There were false starts before, but this one looks for real."

In the third quarter, equipment and software expenditures jumped 17.6 percent, helping fuel the 8.2 percent increase in gross domestic product, according to the Commerce Department.

Most of the end-of-year forecasts focusing more specifically on technology spending expect a 4 percent to 6 percent increase in 2004, notably healthier than in previous years when corporate stinginess weighed down the entire economy.

But that hardly amounts to another boom, and the momentum is uncertain, experts caution. In fact, there appears to have been some slowdown during the fall, perhaps because newly confident information technology managers realized they had overspent budgets set last year when times were tougher.

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