Cloudy Market Conditions Prevail on Soggy Wall Street

Market players are lending continued support to tech stocks, but others are drifting after recent gains.
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Thursday so far has seemed more like a lazy summer Friday on Wall Street. In fact, the most talked-about news was the treacherous downpour that hampered many New Yorkers' morning commute. Fortunately, after the market movers and makers dried off, they didn't have another storm to bear. Just another drizzler of a session.

After reflecting briefly on today's weather, Richard Yamarone, senior economist at

Argus Research

, said he sees additional signs of labor market tightness, citing today's release of initial jobless claims at 283,000 for the week ended Saturday, down from a revised 288,000 in the previous week. "Manufacturing has stepped up its pace with the release of August's

APICS

survey, up 56.7 from 50.8," he said. "We don't believe this is indicative of a major resurgence in manufacturing, but more realistically a temporary attempt to add inventory in anticipation of heightened Y2K demand."

At the midday, tickers seemed to be going from green to red, as investors sold off some of yesterday's gains. Peter Cardillo, chief strategist at

Westfalia Investments

, said he sees some profit-taking after yesterday's surge. Cardillo also noted a possible turnaround in investors' strategy now that the word is out on interest rates, saying investors "will begin to focus on individual companies, rather than the market itself."

The oil sector appeared to be leaking after yesterday's sharp decline in oil and gasoline futures prices, with

Chevron

(CHV)

slip-sliding down 2 1/8 to 93, while

Texaco

(TX) - Get Report

stumbled 1 9/16 to 63.

This morning, retailers were sporting the red "for sale" tag, trading down after

Merrill Lynch

analyst Dan Barry initiated a conservative investment opinion on a slew of stores.

Dayton Hudson

(DH)

,

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

,

Kmart

(KM)

,

Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Report

and

Kohl's

(KSS) - Get Report

were all being bagged.

On the

New York Stock Exchange

,

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

was proving that it was more than just talk, soaring 6 15/16 to 104 15/16 after announcing a possible joint venture with

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down 53 to 11,273. The small-cap

Russell 2000

was unchanged at 438, while the

S&P 500

was off 9 to 1373. The tech-laden

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 4 to 2810, while

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was up 7 to 598.

On the Big Board, decliners were beating advancers 1,642 to 1,134 on 424 million shares, while on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

laggards were beating leaders 1,831 to 1,702 on 665 million shares. New 52-week lows were leading new highs 35 to 26 on the NYSE, but on the Nasdaq, new highs were beating new lows 98 to 38.

The benchmark 30-year Treasury was down 18/32 to 103 8/32, its yield at 5.89%.

Thursday's Midday Watchlist

By Thomas Lepri
Staff Reporter

(

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.

)

Get out of the Kid's way. Exemplifying upside momentum,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

was lately

up

1 (that's an additional $3.2 billion in market cap, remember) to 69 5/8 after saying it spent a whopping $7.4 billion in stock for two privately held fiber-optic networking companies.

About $6.9 billion of Cisco stock will go to Petaluma, Calif.-based

Cerent

, with the other $501 million earmarked for

Monterey Networks

.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Shares of copper miners

Asarco

(AR) - Get Report

and

Cyprus Amax

(CYM)

were on the upswing after they said yesterday that they would begin merger negotiations if once-spurned suitor

Phelps Dodge

(PD) - Get Report

upped its all-stock offer for both companies to $3.3 billion from $2.5 billion. Cyprus and Asarco had initially turned down proposals from Phelps, saying they'd pursue their own merger. Cyprus was lately up 11/16 to 17 7/8, while Asarco had risen 1 3/8, or 6.4%, to 22 13/16. Phelps Dodge was off 5/16 to 57 5/16.

ADRs of

British Telecommunications

(BTY)

were sinking 2 13/16 to 157 11/16 after the company said it bought

Yellow Book USA

for $665 million as part of an effort to build its online directory service. BT said it plans to integrate the company with its own yellow pages business.

Recovery Engineering

(REIN)

longs are sitting pretty today after

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

set plans to buy the maker of household drinking water systems for $35.25 a share in cash. Recovery was halted in early trading, but investors quickly bid it up toward the acquisition price when it opened. Recovery was lately up 17 5/8, or a handsome 103%, to 34 3/4. Procter & Gamble was down 2 1/8 to 100 1/2.

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

was off 2, or 8.8%, to 20 7/8 after it said it was in ongoing talks for potential corporate transactions that could be "material" if completed.

Vodafone AirTouch was up 7 3/16, or 3.6%, to 205 3/16 after

The Times

of London reported that the company was in talks with Bell Atlantic to create a joint venture in the U.S. The newspaper wrote that analysts believe the deal could involve a merger of AirTouch's West Coast operations and Bell Atlantic's mobile phone unit, which covers the East Coast. The combined businesses could be worth more than $100 billion, according to the paper. Bell Atlantic lately was up7/8 to 64 3/4.

Offerings and stock actions

bamboo.com

(BAMB)

was lighting it up in its first day of trading, lately up 5 11/16, or 81.3%, to 12 11/16 after being priced at $7 a share by lead underwriter

Prudential Securities

.

Analyst actions

Georgia-Pacific

(GP)

was up 15/16 to 42 7/16 after Merrill Lynch raised it to near-term accumulate from near-term neutral and to long-term buy from long-term accumulate.

Halliburton

(HAL) - Get Report

was down 3/8 to 44 5/8 despite the fact that

Banc of America Securities

raised it to buy from market performer. The brokerage also upped its rating on oil drilling service firm

Weatherford International

(WFT) - Get Report

to strong buy from market performer. Weatherford was lately up 1/8 to 33.

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

was up 1 1/2 to 70 15/16 after Merrill raised it to near-term buy from near-term accumulate and upped its earnings estimate for the August 2000 fiscal year to $2.22 a share from $1.90.

Miscellany

American Home Products

(AHP)

was off 1 to 46 13/16 after it agreed to settle lawsuits with more than 36,000 women over the Norplant contraceptive device. The company didn't disclose the size of the settlements.

AMR

(AMR)

was sinking 2 7/16, or 3.8%, to 62 5/16 one day after "Operation Ramp Rats," in which 58 employees of its

American Airlines

subsidiary were arrested on charges of smuggling drugs and weapons through Miami airport's baggage system.

It's not clear what's driving the selloff in engineering and services construction firm

Dycom Industries

(DY) - Get Report

. The company has claimed it has no idea. But there it goes anyway, lately down 5 3/4, or 13.2%, to 37 15/16. Dycom had traded as low as 33 earlier in the session.

A Heard on the Street column in today's

Wall Street Journal

questioning the high P/E ratios inspired by the Pokemon craze is taking its toll on several companies today:

Grand Toys International

(GRIN) - Get Report

, off 4 5/8, or 20.2%, to 18 7/16;

Toymax International

(TMAX)

, down 3 9/16, or 25.9%, to 10 1/4;

4 Kids Entertainment

(KIDE)

, off 3 7/8, or 6%, to 60 7/8; and

Topps

(TOPP)

, down 1/4, or 7.3%, to 10 1/16. The TaskMaster, a.k.a.

Aaron Task

, wrote about

Pokemon (whatever the heck that is) last night.

Homestore.com

(HOMS)

and

Phone.com

(PHCM)

were seeing the ugly side of Net volatility today; Homestore.com was lately down 4 11/16, or 9.3%, to 45 9/16, while Phone.com was off 7 1/16, or 5.4%, to 124 3/16.