Somebody tell the news crews in front of the

New York Stock Exchange

that they can knock off for the morning.

With yesterday's weakness and drops overseas, stocks look like they're going to start the day to the downside again. So much for the milestone."It's looking like another fun day as we move further away from 10,000," said Dan Mathisson, head stock trader at

D.E. Shaw Securities

. Unlike a lot of people on the Street, who have been griping about how an arbitrary level on a 30-stock average doesn't mean anything, Mathisson thinks that "the whole 10,000 thing is one of the driving forces behind the market."

"What makes something important in general in the stock market is if a lot of people think it's important," he said. "


10,000 has caught the public's attention. It's definitely become a factor." Ironically, people who refuse to consider whether the benchmark could be affecting trading, rather than figuring out how to play it, could be missing out on an opportunity to make money.

At 9 a.m. EST, the

S&P 500

futures were off 4.5, about 4 below fair value and indicating a lower open.

Yet another benign read on inflation in the February

consumer price index

and a wider-than-expected January trade gap were giving a little support to the bond market. The 30-year Treasury was up 15/32 to 96 22/32, dropping the yield to 5.48%. The rebound in the bonds could help interest-rate-sensitive issues, which dropped with the Treasuries yesterday, recover.

After running up 17% in a little over two weeks, Tokyo's


ran into a bout of profit-taking. The index dropped 550.19, or 3.4%, to 15,717.92. That takes it a few steps away from its goal of closing above 16,527.17, the level the Nikkei finished at last March 31, when the fiscal year winds up at the end of the month.

For investors, the question is not whether the Nikkei will attain that level, but what comes after. And implicit in that is the question of whether Japan's economy has recovered. If you want to make the bear case, perhaps the worst thing that's happened lately is the government has started to say that a turnaround is at hand. If the government truly believes that, it may stop working as hard to make things better. That would be a tragedy.

The drop in Tokyo triggered heavy selling in the Hong Kong futures market, and that brought stocks sharply lower. The

Hang Seng

slipped 280.75, or 2.6%, to 10,659.32.

European bourses were all lower.

In Frankfurt, investors were not taking well the news that

Deutsche Bank

will finance its takeover of

Bankers Trust


by raising 6 billion marks ($3.4 billion) in a secondary offering. Previously the bank said it would raise only 4 billion marks.



was off 87.18, or 1.7%, to 4990.25. Deutsche Bank was down 3%.

In Paris, the


was down 69.93, or 1.5%, to 4106.08. London's


was down a more subdued 44.1 to 6096.5.

Thursday's Wake-Up Watchlist


Brian Louis

Staff Reporter

  • AMR (AMR) , the parent of American Airlines, said its recent 10-day pilot sickout will hurt first-quarter earnings. The airline said it sees earnings of 30 cents to 35 cents a share, well below the current 11-analyst First Call forecast of 65 cents.
  • AT&T (T) - Get Report will try out Lucent's (LU) new switching enhancement designed to bring Internet protocol capabilities to voice networks, Lucent said. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported AT&T is preparing for a massive bond sale next week that could add as much as $8 billion to its coffers. Investors and people close to AT&T said the company has allowed itself room to go higher than the $6 billion indicated last week, depending on market conditions.
  • Chase (CMB) Chairman and Chief Executive Walter V. Shipley has made informal overtures to potential merger partners on Wall Street in the past year and has offered senior execs the possibility of a CEO slot in the merged firm, the Heard on the Street column in the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Among the firms approached: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch (MER) , Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (MWD) and J.P. Morgan (JPM) - Get Report, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with his efforts.
  • FDX (FDX) - Get Report posted third-quarter earnings of 87 cents a share -- excluding the cost of contingency plans related to the FedEx pilot negotiations and merger expenses related to its acquisition of Caliber -- an increase from the year-ago 65 cents. FDX also set a 2-for-1 stock split. In other news:
  • Boston Scientific (BSX) - Get Report named James R. Tobin president and chief executive, effective immediately. Tobin had previously served as president and CEO of Biogen. Yesterday, Boston Scientific said the Food and Drug Administration approved to market the Constellation mapping catheter, which is used to diagnose abnormal heart beats.
  • Carnival (CCL) - Get Report posted first-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share, beating the First Call 19-analyst estimate of 24 cents and up from the year-ago 18 cents.
  • CMGI (CMGI) set a 2-for-1 stock split.
  • Merck (MRK) - Get Report said its investigational Cox-2 specific inhibitor, Vioxx, relieved moderate to severe acute pain to the same degree and in the same amount of time as high doses of two leading traditional medicines in studies of menstrual and dental-surgery pain.
  • Motorola (MOT) unveiled a new line of digital personal communications products and promised Internet-browsing capability across its entire digital mobile phone range in the year 2000. Motorola unveiled the products at the CeBIT exhibition in Hannover, Germany.