A somewhat tentative session firmed up a bit by midday. A softer-than-expected core
Producer Price Index
and a surging bond market had major proxies sitting squarely in positive territory, with tech gauges leading again.
Bumped up by higher energy prices, the headline PPI gained 0.5% in August, surpassing the 0.3% increase forecast by economists polled by
. But the core rate, which excludes food and energy costs, fell unexpectedly by 0.1%. Economists had been expecting a 0.1% gain.
The market focused on the core number. Stocks ran higher at the open, and after showing signs of weakening in midmorning trading, finally took the bond market's enthusiasm as confirmation that the first course was the wiser.
The 30-year Treasury was lately up 31/32 to 101 11/32, its yield falling to 6.03%.
At midday, the
Nasdaq Composite Index
was up 29.18, or 1%, to 2881.20 and on pace to establish a new record.
-- lately up 2% -- the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up 32.93, or 0.3%, to 11,112.33. The
was up 7.55, or 0.6%, to 1355.21. The
had advanced 1.95, or 0.5%, to 439.72, while
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index was up 15.75, or 2.6%, to 627.51.
"We still have a pretty firm undertone here on the market," said Lou Todd, head of equities trading at
. "Despite the wall of worries being built for it, the market's climbing well."
The fact that the market is rallying so well on what's generally considered to be a clear second-fiddle to the
Consumer Price Index
in terms of
policy is testament to the market's need for confirmation inflationary pressures are under control. Sure, a
poll taken after last Friday's weak jobs report shows 23 of 30 primary dealers of government debt are confident the Fed won't touch interest rates for the rest of the year. But others aren't so sure.
"Right now the market has no idea on the Fed," said Tony Dwyer, chief market strategist at
. Stocks are laboring under "a combination of inflation fears, interest rate fears, earnings fears, the declining dollar and high valuations," he continued.
"High valuations can be ignored in a low inflation environment. We're not certain about inflation right now, so we're at a key inflection point."
The vicissitudes of the financial sector today illustrate that uncertainty nicely.
"I expected the financials to be a lot stronger," said Dwyer, and he wasn't the only one. After shedding 11.2% since Aug. 24 amid interest rate and currency fears, a soft core PPI and a
Bank of Japan
intervention seemed just what the sector needed to rebound.
Not necessarily. After surging at the opening bell, the big banks found themselves tarred by the brushes of two brokerage houses that cut earnings estimates on
(see below). By midmorning, financials had turned tail, following Chase, lately down about 1%, into the red.
Moreover, any upside support the banks may have gotten from the BOJ's intervention overnight was threatened by the dollar's fading strength. The greenback was lately quoted at 108.87 yen after trading above 110 in the immediate reaction to the intervention.
However, the persistence of the bond market's rally had turned things around for the financial sector. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
was back in positive territory, up 0.9% to 783.56 after trading as low as 772.94.
Depending on how the Chase story develops, that sector's weakness may end up weighing on the broader market somewhere down the road. "These aren't mom and pop banks," said Pete Boockvar, equity strategist at
. "These are major, major banking companies, so it makes people pause somewhat."
In other sector news, tech continued to outperform, with the
Morgan Stanley High-Tech-35
up 1.3%. Profit taking in oil stocks had the
American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index
Volume was solid as 462.1 million shares had traded on the
New York Stock Exchange
, while 630.2 million shares changed hands on the
Nasdaq Stock Market
. Activity, not to mention long positions, may drop off a bit later in the day, with people leaving work early ahead of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which begins at sundown.
Breadth was positive. Advancers were topping decliners 1,487 to 1,194 on the NYSE, where there were 53 new 52-week highs against 78 new lows. In Nasdaq action, advancers were beating decliners 1,911 to 1,539, with 158 new highs and 40 new lows.
Friday's Midday Watchlist
Chase Manhattan Bank edged down 11/16 to 76 13/16 after
Warburg Dillon Read
cut third-quarter and 1999 earnings estimates. Citing lower investment banking fees, trading revenues, and private equity gains, Warburg cut third quarter earnings per share to $1.28 from $1.33, and 1999 estimates to $5.40 a share from $5.55 a share, but kept its strong buy rating on the stock. Goldman cut third quarter and year estimates by five cents to $1.36 and $5.60 respectively, citing wider spreads and lower liquidity.
Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
dropped 2 3/16 to 123 1/8 after the
The New York Times
reported that an investment group led by president and CEO Henry T. Nicholas III was close to inking a letter of intent to acquire the
for between $400 million to $500 million. Disney was off 3/4 to 28.
Illinois Tool Works
got hammered 5 7/8, or 7.3%, to 74 1/4 despite a hand from
, which raised its price target to 100 from 93 and maintained its buy rating on the stock. Last night ITW said it would acquire
in a $3.4 billion deal. Shares of Premark soared 16 15/16, or 49.5%, to 51 3/16.
Old Kent Financial
slipped 3/8 to 39 after it announced plans to buy
Grand Premier Financial
lately up 3/4, or 5%, to 15 13/16, in a deal valued at $394 million. Old Kent said it would assume a one-time charge of $30 million.
added 7/8 to 76 after it unveiled plans to take a 14.3% interest in the electronic trading system,
The Wall Street Journal
reported that Archipelago will start executing orders in Big Board-listed stocks.
Earnings/revenue reports and previews
slipped 1/8 to 114 3/16 after CEO William Stavropoulos said he was comfortable with third-quarter earnings estimates, despite pressure from rising costs for raw materials. The 14-anlayst estimate calls for earnings of $1.32 a share.
added 7/16 to 21 1/8 after posting third-quarter earnings of 53 cents a share, beating both the five-analyst estimate of 52 cents and the year-ago 42 cents.
got socked 2 11/16, or 22.4%, to 43 7/8 after saying it expects third-quarter earnings to miss analyst estimates because of lower sales volume in its home appliances. The nine-analyst estimate calls for earnings of 99 cents a share. Maytag says it expects to report earnings of 84 cents a share.
tacked on 2 7/8, or 9%, to 34 7/8 after
Salomon Smith Barney
upped its 2000 earnings-per-share estimate and raised its price target to $55 from $35. Last night the company reported first-quarter profit of $57 million, or 25 cents a share, including a gain. The profit for the quarter ended Aug. 29 put the Santa Clara, Calif., chip concern ahead of schedule in returning to the black and reversed the year-ago loss of 63 cents a share. The 19-analyst estimate called for a loss of 14 cents a share. National Semi didn't release per-share figures excluding the gain, but said pretax profit excluding the gain was $1.2 million. Warburg also raised its earnings estimate for 2001 and 2001, while reiterating a buy rating on the stock.
slipped 1/16 to 47 5/16 after Warburg cut its 2000 earnings estimate to $1.90 from $2.05 citing higher dilutive effects in emerging businesses. Warburg maintained its buy rating on the stock.
Offerings and stock actions
iced plans for a 3 million-share offering by selling stockholders, citing a drop in its share price.
jumped 9 3/8, or 6.5%, to 153 7/8 after
rolled out coverage with a long-term buy rating and a price target of 208.
shed 1 13/16, or 23%, to 6 1/16 after
cut its rating to a hold from a buy. Yesterday, the company said it decided not to spin off its inpatient operations to shareholders and would instead keep its divisions under one business. HealthSouth also announced plans to restructure management at its outpatient services, a move that will result in charges of between $250 million and $300 million by the end of the year.
also sliced its rating on the shares to a long-term buy from a buy.
rose 13/16 to 30 1/16 after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
raised its rating to outperform from neutral.
added 1/16 to 70 3/8 after
Salomon Smith Barney
analyst Geoff Kieburtz cut his 1999 earnings estimates to $1.05 from $1.10.
slipped 15/16 to 20 3/4 after Salomon cut its 1999 earnings estimate to 65 cents from 75 cents.
added 1/8 to 18 1/8 after
upped its rating to buy from an attractive.
edged down 3/4 to 27 1/4 after PaineWebber cut its rating to attractive from buy.
lost 7/16 to 26 after PaineWebber lowered its rating to neutral from attractive.
rose 1 7/16 to 53 3/16 after
Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette
upped its rating to buy from accumulate.
lost 1/4 to 20 3/4 despite an upgrade from Warburg to buy from hold. Warburg set a price target of 28.
Offerings and Stock Actions
American Power Conversion
added 11/16 to 20 11/16 after saying it will buy back up to 10 million shares of its common stock over the next two years.
lost 5/16, or 45.5%, to 3/8 after saying it would be delisted from the
New York Stock Exchange
if it fails to meet the NYSE listing requirements.
rose 1 1/4 to 33 3/16 after the company said it received
clearance for its
Bank of New York
added 1/2 to 36 9/16 after a story in the
The Wall Street Journal
said wire transfer company
, which is connected to money-laundering investigation, seems to have operated illegally in the U.S., channeling millions of dollars out of Russia, according to law enforcement officials.
U.S. generic drug maker
shed 2 3/16 to 69 3/4 after British drug group
said it started legal action against it, alleging infringement of patents.
fell 3 7/8, or 6.8%, to 52 7/8 after saying it would shut down two U.S. nitrogen fertilizer facilities and slice third-quarter earnings estimates in half. The plant closings in Clinton, Iowa and LaPlatte, Neb. along with three others announced on Aug. 12 will mean an estimated $37 million third-quarter write-off for the company. Potash said harsh market conditions in nitrogen and slowing trends in potash and phosphate would drive third-quarter earnings down to about a quarter of its $1.01 per share earnings for the same period last year. J.P. Morgan reduced the stocks rating to market performer from long-term buy.