Market players back from vacations and holidays found themselves walking (and waving) into the tar pits of mediocrity today, a la Fred Flintstone in his ill-fated attempt at acting.
Following the bond market's weakness -- itself a reaction to the dollar's continuing woes -- equity gauges were mired in negative territory for the bulk of the session, although the most public face of equities ended with a minuscule gain. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond fell 8/32 to 100 31/32, its yield rising to 6.06%. The greenback, meanwhile, fell as low as 106.13 yen, its lowest level since May 15, 1996. In late New York trading, the dollar was quoted at 106.56 yen after being quoted at 108.75 late Friday.
Losses for major stock proxies were relatively modest and trading action largely unmemorable. But the absence of momentum troubled some.
"I thought everyone would come back after Labor Day ready to rock n' roll, but we've got the same blahs as in midsummer," said Charles Payne, president and chief analyst at
Wall Street Strategies
. "We got the
was great, but we couldn't sustain rallies. We've had enough data go our way to have the
well above 11,000. The fact we're not probably doesn't bode well short-term. It's definitely a symptom of something. It seems like every day there's something that falls in the path of the market," with the dollar's slide against the yen today's likely culprit.
But at the same time, the strategist is still somewhat optimistic.
"It feels like doom and gloom but what happens is, when everyone starts to feel a little down and comes to expect the worst, that's the type of atmosphere that sparks big rallies," Payne said. "I'm hoping
can spring some life into this market" when it reports earnings tomorrow after the close. Then "we've got to see if
Today, however, tech stocks were unable to hold
Friday's momentum. The
Nasdaq Composite Index
retreated from Friday's record heights, falling 42.29, or 1.5%, to 2844.77.
gained 6% on news it will spin off its
unit, but none of the biggest tech bellwethers posted a sizable advance; the
fell 2%. Additionally, the Comp was also hampered by
, down 7.4%. Payne attributed the decline to the company canceling an appearance at a
"The stock was already weak to begin with," he said of Qualcomm, which fell 13% Sept. 1 after some cautious comments from
Richard Grannis, treasurer at Qualcomm, attributed the cancellation to "scheduling conflicts" and noted the company has a "full-blown" analyst meeting in New York on Wednesday, featuring Chairman and CEO Irwin Jacobs. Grannis declined to comment on the stock action.
A bigger story in techland was
, down 8.2% on reports it may acquire
, which declined 5.4%. Motorola weighed on both the
Morgan Stanley High Tech 35
, which fell 2.2%, and the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
, off 3.3%.
Internet stocks such as
also suffered, sending
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index down 14.40, or 2.3%, to 612.38.
"The only thing that's really rocking is companies coming out of quiet periods tomorrow or later this week," Payne said. "That's the game right now."
The category includes
, which each rose over 15%, and
, up 8.5%. Others include
, which rose as high as 37 3/8 but closed off 12.3% at 26 15/16, and
, down 8% to 21 1/2 after trading as high as 26 1/2.
There was also some positive action in online financial names such as
, which gained 51%, and
-- the publisher of this Web site -- up 33.3%.
Among blue-chips, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
closed up 1.90 to 11,030.33 after trading at low as 10,982.20. The
declined 7.53, or 0.6%, to 1344.13, saddled by weakness in tech bellwethers and financials such as
Both averages were buoyed by strength in cyclical names such as
. Paper stocks overall soared in anticipation of a strong pulp inventory report. The
S&P Forest & Paper Products Index
New York Stock Exchange
trading, 654.7 million shares were exchanged while declining stocks led advancers 1,728 to 1,210. In
Nasdaq Stock Market
action, 978.2 million shares traded while losers led 2,200 to 1,665. New 52-week lows bested new highs 157 to 70 on the Big Board, while new highs led 119 to 61 in over-the-counter trading.
'Levitating' Market Fails to Impress
"This was much ado about nothing," said Doug Myers, vice president of equity trading at
in Atlanta. "We're up 1.90 on the Dow but the Nasdaq
being down is disappointing. It was sort of a down day."
Myers said it "wasn't that hard" to buy stocks today, "unless they were in the news." Investors were "reluctant to buy" such names because "you don't know if you'll get hit more." Specifically, he noted Motorola losing 8 1/8, which was "unpleasant if you bought on the opening, which normally is a rationale way to do something."
The dollar's struggles "add to the overall uncertainty," the trader said, noting the market is largely unchanged in the past week. "The market is sort of levitating, but you want something with conviction and we don't have it."
Among other indices, the
Dow Jones Transportation Average
rose 0.70 to 3091.53; the
Dow Jones Utility Average
lost 2.41, or 0.8%, to 313.54; the
fell 1.54, or 0.4%, to 439.65; and the
American Stock Exchange Composite Index
slid 1.45, or 0.2%, to 804.50.
Elsewhere in North American equities, the
Toronto Stock Exchange 300
slid 53.27 to 7110.10 and the
Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index
gained 18.71 to 4998.64.
Monday's Company Report
Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.
Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
advanced 1 3/4 to 64 1/4 after it confirmed that it was in talks with
to consolidate the companies' U.S. cellular phone operations,
The New York Times
reported Sunday. An agreement would create a U.S. network capable of rivaling
. Shares of Vodafone soared 10 3/4, or 5.5%, to 205 9/16.
are in aggressive, last-minute negotiations to set terms for Mobil to leave a European downstream joint venture with BP before it merges with
reported. Shares of Mobil slid 1 3/4 to 103 3/8, while Exxon fell 1 13/16 to 78 5/8.
dropped 8 1/8, or 8.2%, to 90 1/2 after published reports said it was in talks to acquire
in an all-stock deal worth about $10 billion. Under the deal, each General Instrument common share would be exchanged for little more than half of a Motorola share. The proposed merger is aimed at giving the companies a presence in the broadband market for high-speed access to interactive voice, data and video services over cable TV lines. Shares of General Instrument slipped 2 13/16, or 5.3%, to 49 11/16.
Separately, Motorola president and COO Robert Growney reiterated the company's third-quarter and 1999 earnings estimates of 51 cents and $2 a share, respectively, slightly below the consensus estimates of 53 cents and $2.04.
Mark IV Industries
declined 1/16 to 20 13/16 after it said it sold its
Percolator Industrial Filters
in a deal valued at $144.8 million. Shares of Clarcor also skidded 1/16 to 18 3/8.
, publisher of this Web site, was up 6 7/16, or 33.3%, at 25 11/16. The company said it would launch a sister financial news site in the U.K. in early 2000, and
cited an unconfirmed rumor that the company was a possible takeover target.
agreed to acquire
for $54.24 billion in stock, potentially ending a noisy fracas and creating the world's fourth-largest oil company. Elf agreed to the offer after Total Fina sweetened a $45 billion hostile bid it made in early July.
rose 1 3/16, or 8%, to 15 15/16 after it said it was not discussing a possible sale of the company to Rupert Murdoch's
Earnings/revenue reports and previews
was off 7/8 to 23 9/16 after it reported third-quarter earnings of 46 cents a share, in line with the three-analyst estimate of 46 cents a share and up from the year-ago 40 cents.
was up 3/16 to 16 7/8 after it posted third-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, beating both the two-analyst estimate of 26 cents and the year-ago 14 cents.
stumbled 1 5/8, or 9.6%, to 15 3/16 after it warned investors that it expects to miss analysts' earnings estimates for the remainder of the year. The company said it would post 1999 earnings between $1.13 and $1.17 per share, missing both the consensus estimate of $1.50 and last year's earnings of $1.42.
slid 1 1/4 to 24 5/8 after it posted fourth-quarter earnings of 23 cents a share, in line with the seven-analyst estimate of 23 and up from the year-ago 13 cents.
was up 1/16 to 51 7/8 after it said it would miss third-quarter and 1999 earnings estimates by 8% to 10%, citing start-up costs for new business systems in July.
slipped 3 3/4, or 10.2%, to 33 after it said a court's decision to bar sales of its
Nicotine Polacrilex Gum
may leave a $10 million dent in lost sales and expenses. On Sept. 10, a U.S. District Court handed down a preliminary injunction prohibiting the gum's sale and ordered a recall after
brought a copyright suit against the company.
Offerings and stock actions
popped 5 to 140 after it set a 2-for-1 stock split.
fell 4 11/16, or 10.2%, to 40 15/16 after it set plans for a secondary 5.5 million-share secondary offering.
Packaging Corp. of America
announced plans for a $976 million initial public offering. The offering will include
43.5% interest in Packaging. Investment firm
will continue to hold a 49% to 50% stake in the company after the deal is completed. Shares of Tenneco declined 3/8 to 19 3/4.
was off 5/8 to 15 after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
rolled out coverage of the stock with an outperform rating and set a price target of 19.
was up 1/4 to 140 1/4 after
analyst Michael Hughes rolled out coverage of the stock with near-term accumulate and long term-buy ratings and set a price target of 160.
BancBoston Robertson Stephens
started coverage of hotel properties REITs
, with a buy rating, and
Felcor Lodging Trust
Innkeepers USA Trust
, with long-term attractive ratings. Shares of MeriStar were up 5/16 to 16 13/16, while Felcor was up 1/16 to 18 5/16. Innkeepers USA shares advanced 5/16 to 9 5/8.
was unchanged at 70 11/16 after Merrill Lynch analyst Mike Ching upped his rating to near-term buy from accumulate.
tumbled 1 1/16 to 42 5/8 after
Salomon Smith Barney
raised its fiscal 1999 and 2000 earnings estimates to $2.35 from $2.30 and $2.70 from $2.55, respectively.
leaped 6 15/16, or 10.3%, to 74 1/2 after
Credit Suisse First Boston
eliminated its price target for the stock.
rose 3/8 to 24 3/16 after Merrill Lynch sliced its rating to near-term neutral from accumulate.
leaped 7 1/2, or 7.3%, to 109 7/8 after Morgan Stanley raised the shares' rating to outperform from neutral based on strong performance in the company's liquid crystal and semiconductor sales.
soared 14 3/8, or 13.6%, to 119 5/8 after Merrill Lynch biotech analyst Eric Hecht upped his rating on the stock to a near-term buy from accumulate.
plummeted 14 1/8, or 34.2%, to 27 1/4 after
sliced its rating to sell from hold.
Warburg Dillon Read
also lowered its rating to buy from strong buy after the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
decided in favor of
in a patent disagreement between the firms. Affymetrix shares rocketed 19 11/16, or 19.4%, to 121 1/16.
hopped 5 7/8, or 40.1%, to 20 1/2 after Morgan Stanley rolled out coverage of the stock with an outperform rating and price target of 30.
was off 1/16 to 14 7/8 after ING Barings boosted its rating to a buy from a hold.
faltered 1 11/16 to 40 1/16 after
Banc of America Securities
downgraded its shares to market perform from buy. Salomon Smith Barney also cut its rating to outperform from buy.
plummeted 5 1/4, or 12.4%, to 37 after Merrill Lynch started coverage of the shares with near-term accumulate and long-term buy ratings.
slid 1 1/4, or 8.3%, to 13 5/8 after
Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette
initiated coverage with a buy rating.
climbed 1 1/8 to 48 5/8 after Lehman Brothers analyst Blake Bath sliced pro forma 2000 earnings estimates to $2.36 from $2.46, maintaining his buy rating.
cratered 5 1/4, or 12.4%, to 37 1/16 after BancBoston Robertson Stephens stated coverage of the shares with a buy rating.
sank 5 1/4, or 9.7%, to 49 1/2 after Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette analyst Kim Zia began coverage of the shares with a buy rating.
Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown
also initiated coverage with a market perform rating.
Foundation on Economic Trends
announced its plans to lead an antitrust lawsuit seeking billions in damages from agribusiness companies for unfairly controlling genetically modified seeds.
Archer Daniels Midland
are among companies named in the suit. The foundation's head, Jeremy Rifkin, said the suit alleges that only a small number of companies regulate seeds available to farmers globally and many patent rights prohibit farmers from reusing the seeds. Shares of Monsanto declined 15/16 to 37 1/8, while DuPont hopped 2 3/4 to 68 1/2. Archer Daniels shares slipped 1/8 to 13 1/16.
could experience rough seas ahead, including a drop as sharp as 50% in its share price, Doug Kass of hedge fund
. Kass said AOL could be forced to lower its subscription fees if competitors such as Microsoft and AT&T offer cheaper service. Shares of AOL tumbled 6 3/16, or 6.4%, to 90 1/8.
advanced 1 3/16 to 33 1/2 after it said that it anticipates launching clinical trials for a proprietary drug to remedy symptoms related to prostate cancer.
was off 3/8 to 24 13/16 after it said it would slash computer prices by up to 17%. Compaq's price cut is only days behind rival
announcement it would slice its business PC prices by up to 18%. In August, the company trimmed prices on most of its
computer line by up to 11%. Dell shares dropped 1 11/16 to 47 7/8.
said that as of Oct. 11 it would raise rates by 5.3%. FDX was off 11/16 to 45 9/16.
unveiled a new line of powerful Unix servers to run Web sites. The company said the RS/6000 S80 servers are more powerful than those of
, but cost as little as one-third as much. Shares of IBM slipped 2 5/8 to 132 3/8, while Sun Micro was unchanged 85 11/16.
rose 15/16, or 6.8%, to 14 9/16 after it said it forged a deal calling for IBM to globally market its software for translation and mapping.
School bus operator
advanced 3/4, or 11.4%, to 7 5/16 after it said it plans to sell off its U.S. health care operations and seek a buyer for its 44% stake in
. The company said it expects to realize proceeds of about $2 billion from the divestitures. Safety-Kleen climbed 1 1/16, or 8.5%, to 13 1/2.
jumped 4 3/16 to 136 1/2 after it unveiled plans to launch its next-generation
Sony Playstation 2
in Japan on March 4, 2000. The company expects unit distribution to hit 1 million.
plans to announce a new strategy acknowledging the company will increase its focus on the Web, as compared with standalone computers,
The Wall Street Journal
reported in its online edition. Shares of Microsoft skidded 1 1/16 to 93 7/8.
hopped 1 5/8, or 5.9%, to 28 7/8 after it announced plans to sell shares in its
subsidiary to stockholders in early 2000, in an effort to bolster its strength and allow it to create more Internet products and services.
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