The shares of PC heavyweights Hewlett-Packard Co., Apple Inc. and Dell Inc. fell on Thursday as new signs emerged of eroding demand for technology hardware.

HP's stock dropped 8 percent after the company slashed its fiscal 2009 outlook on Wednesday. HP, the world's No. 1 PC maker and No. 2 services firm, posted weak fiscal first-quarter sales of printers, personal computers and servers.

Apple shares fell nearly 4 percent as new data showed the company's premium-priced computers are proving a tougher sell in difficult times. According to research group NPD, Apple's January computer sales through U.S. retail outlets fell 6 percent on a unit basis from a year ago as the dollar value dropped 11 percent. Its unit market share fell to 13.7 percent from 16.4 percent, NPD said.

Apple declined to comment on the data.

According to NPD, overall PC unit sales through U.S. retailers rose 13 percent in the month, but revenue fell 3.2 percent.

I think what HP and Apple are seeing is what should be expected in this environment, that consumers are making the change to lower-price, lower-end notebooks, ThinkPanmure analyst Vijay Rakesh said.

The shares of Dell, which is scheduled to report quarterly results next Thursday, fell 6 percent. The No. 2 PC maker has been cutting costs and retooling its operations as it continues to lose market share.

The global economic meltdown has severely hurt IT purchases, with enterprises paring back costs and consumer spending evaporating. Fourth-quarter 2008 PC shipments posted their worst growth rate since 2002, according to research group Gartner.

HP's diversified business and recurring revenue streams had so far helped insulate it somewhat from the downturn, but analysts said the company could not escape from what is one of the worst demand environments in memory.

I think people today are really calling into question that demand could get worse, said Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu.

This recessionary environment we're in is leaving no stone unturned ... I think what HP showed everybody is that even a company as well run as they are is seeing the effects.

HP's notebook revenue fell 13 percent and desktop sales fell 25 percent in the January quarter. Dell shares dropped 53 cents to close at $8.12, while Apple shares lost $3.73 to $90.64. HP shares were down $2.69 at $31.39.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Andre Grenon)