If the stock market were a children's game of (choose one: freeze tag, dodgeball, stickball or the un-politically correct kill-the-guy-with-the-ball), today's action would likely have resulted in a classic "do over" call.
Major proxies floundered in a tight range around break-even for much of the day before closing with a positive bent. Still, volume was notably light once again, market breadth was decidedly negative and few players were ready to concede the day signals an end to recent corrective action.
Also troubling for stock-market bulls, the price of the 30-year Treasury bond fell 28/32 to 98 9/32, its yield rising to 5.37%; this despite a reportedly successful 10-year note auction.
Technology bellwethers rebounded modestly from
yesterday's shellacking, but Internet names struggled again, keeping corresponding gauges in the red. Strength in financials, drug makers and some consumer staples ultimately proved the difference between an up day and a down day for blue-chip averages.
Nasdaq Composite Index
rose as high as 2338.15 in a morning flurry, then slid as low as 2289.90 before ending the session down 1.29, or 0.1%, to 2309.50.
Tech stalwarts were mixed but the
rose 0.5% and the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
led gainers, while
were notable losers.
'I don't think they're done going down quite yet, but I think this correction is almost over,' said George K. Baum's Brian Belski. 'We'll see more days like this -- sloppy, indecisive -- and then see some strength after a couple of weeks or so.'
A similar pattern emerged among
-traded tech behemoths.
rose 3.8% while
gained 4.2% after giving a bullish presentation at the
Goldman Sachs Technology Conference
were notable laggards, down more than 2% each. The
Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35
finished up 0.4%.
Internet names were also indecisive. Weakness in
ultimately determined the course of
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index, which finished off 5.36, or 1.2%, to 450.90.
TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index
, meanwhile, gained 1.04, or 1.1%, to 94.14. Options on the index begin trading on the
American Stock Exchange
Feb. 17; quotes became available Friday, under the symbol ICX.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell as low as 9099.04 in the early going, then rose as high as 9183.49 at mid-morning before closing up 44.28, or 0.5%, at 9177.31.
In addition to IBM,
was the Dow's other big positive influence, leading a surge in banking stocks. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
was the Dow's big loser, falling 8.3% after a California jury found the company liable for a long-time smoker's cancer, awarding her $1.5 million in compensatory damages.
closed up 7.41, or 0.6%, to 1223.55 and the
ended down 5.17, or 1.3%, to 397.96.
"This morning it looked like it was going to be an ugly day. That was not the case," said one West Coast trader, who requested anonymity. "It was not a beautiful day, but this morning it looked like a continued selloff. Maybe techs are finding some
The trader, who handles accounts for hedge-fund clients, including some big biotech hedge funds, said "overall the market was dead." But he got excited when asked about
, which fell 47.5% after
said it will no longer develop the firm's experimental anticancer drug, angiostatin.
"We've been short EntreMed and it worked out tremendously," the trader said. "We still think it's going to zero. Take out the gem and there's not much left of the ring."
In NYSE action, a tepid 725.1 million shares traded while declining stocks led advancers 1,822 to 1,170. In
Nasdaq Stock Market
activity, losers led 2,376 to 1,577 on 921.1 million shares, marking the first time this year fewer than a billion shares have traded in three consecutive sessions. New 52-week lows led new highs 93 to 17 on the Big Board and by 65 to 15 in over-the-counter trading.
'A Rather Cloudy Picture'
"We've had two nonsensical days in a row here with real low volume, but I would call today's action more noncommittal," said Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at
George K. Baum
in Kansas City, Mo. "You have a healthy bounce in some tech leaders, more to do with the Goldman Sachs conference than anything else, but you have a lot of other trends taking place that are not confirming that strength. It's still a rather cloudy picture for the stock market. Right now, aside from tech stocks, it's still a very spooky environment."
Despite a mixed performance by tech bellwethers, "it seems to me a lot of the leaders are already halfway down to support levels or have tested them already," the strategist said. "I don't think they're done going down quite yet, but I think this correction is almost over. We'll see more days like this -- sloppy, indecisive -- and then see some strength after a couple of weeks or so."
In other sectors today, Belski noted strength in drug makers such as
, as well as consumer staples such as
As for the talk among
punditry about key support levels holding today, Belski said 9000 is an important "psychological" level for the Dow and 8800 more significant because a break below would represent more than a 10% decline. For the S&P 500, below 1150 would be "a problem area," while 2200 is a key level for the Nasdaq Comp, he said.
Among other indices, the
Dow Jones Transportation Average
fell 35.94, or 1.1%, to 3119.20; the
Dow Jones Utility Average
rose 0.24, or 0.1%, to 293.96;.and, the
American Stock Exchange Composite Index
fell 3.42, or 0.5%, to 688.82.
Elsewhere in North American equities, the
Toronto Stock Exchange 300
lost 43.27 to 6400.70 and the
Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index
crept down 5.45 to 3941.49.
OptiMark Stumbles, Recovers
A spokesman at the
confirmed reports of problems with trading at the exchange at the open this morning. The problem, which the spokesman described as a "communication difficulty" without elaboration, resulted in "limited trading" for about an hour and a delayed open for the
"We asked customers not to send order flow and delayed the opening of OptiMark for one hour due to communication difficulties on our equities floor," the spokesman said. "We were trading on a limited basis but didn't solicit customer business, nor did we open OptiMark until comfortable the issues were resolved at around 7:30
a.m. PST. Once they were resolved, we had normal trading and OptiMark up and running."
OptiMark officials deferred to the P-Coast regarding this morning's delayed open.
OptiMark is an electronic trading vehicle designed to allow institutional investors to trade large blocks of stock with anonymity and at the optimal price. The system went "live" at the Pacific Exchange
reported on OptiMark's initial progress
This morning's glitch notwithstanding, the nascent OptiMark system continues to ruffle the feathers of some of Wall Street's established birds.
fell 4.1% today after falling 4.2% overnight in London. Goldman Sachs lowered its 1999 earning estimate on the media giant, saying in a research note: "We remain concerned over the outlook for profits from
in the face of potential competition from OptiMark." Instinet generates 26% of Reuters' profits.
Wednesday'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.
As noted above, EntreMed plummeted 11 5/8, or 47.5%, to 12 7/8 after Bristol-Myers Squibb said
last night that it will no longer develop the experimental anticancer drug angiostatin as part of the companies' research agreement. Bristol-Myers, which today said it will stop clinical studies of Lobucavir, a herpes and hepatitis drug, slipped 1/4 to 122 1/4.
Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
fell 1 1/2 to 45 5/8 after
dropped its acquisition plans for the company, saying the deal "would not clear its financial hurdles." FMO added 1/4 to 56 3/8.
Lycos dropped 6 7/16, or 6.8%, to 87 1/4 as investors continued to view with derision the three-way merger announced yesterday involving
. Analysts at
BT Alex. Brown
Credit Suisse First Boston
separately downgraded recommendations on Lycos. TicketMaster Online lost 5 1/16, or 12%, to 37 1/8; USA lost 2 1/4, or 5.4%, to 39 1/4.
sliced off 6 1/8, or 11.2%, to 48 11/16 after announcing plans to buy
for $21.3 million and to take an acquired in-process research charge.
skidded 5, or 31.4%, to 11 although
chose its software to ensure quality, performance and scalability of Netscape's server software. Netscape added 7/8 to 63 7/8.
Shop At Home
tumbled 6 7/16, or 32.3%, to 13 9/16 despite announcing it is working with
to launch collectibles.com "as the premier online community for collectible shopping and information." Launch is targeted for the third quarter. Oracle fell 15/16 to 53 11/16.
Earnings/revenue reports and previews
slid 3, or 20.7%, to 11 5/8 after restating its fiscal 1998 and first-quarter 1999 results to include charges associated with the write-off of a $635,000 convertible loan to Bison Valve. The company posted a 1998 loss of $1.04 a share, compared with the previously reported loss of $1.10, and a first-quarter 1999 loss of a penny a share, compared with the previously reported profit of 5 cents.
lowered 3, or 19.4%, to 12 1/2 despite posting fourth-quarter earnings of 28 cents a share, a penny better than the six-analyst consensus and up from 24 cents a year ago.
NationsBanc Montgomery Securities
cut its recommendation to hold from buy.
lifted 1 7/8, or 5.9%, to 33 1/2 after producing fourth-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share, 3 cents better than the 15-analyst consensus and up from 10 cents a year ago.
shaved off 2 1/8, or 9.9%, to 19 1/2 even after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 34 cents a share, topping the five-analyst prediction for 26 cents and the year-ago 24 cents.
cut the stock to attractive from buy while
pushed it up to trading buy from market outperformer.
lost 5/16, or 5%, to 6 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 6 cents a share, a penny shy of the 11-analyst view.
dropped 2 1/8, or 6.4%, to 31 7/16 after late yesterday beating fourth-quarter earnings estimates by 9 cents a share with a profit of 68 cents.
picked up 5 3/8 to 153 7/8, after falling as low as 133 1/8, after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 22 cents a share, beating the six-analyst estimate of 20 cents and the year-ago 11 cents. The stock has fallen this week since the firm announced a secondary offering of 4.6 million shares at $170 a share.
stumbled 2 3/4, or 31%, to 6 1/8 after reporting fiscal first-quarter profits of 18 cents a share, 2 cents shy of the two-analyst average and down from 27 cents a year ago.
reeled in 4, or 8.1%, to 53 1/4 after announcing that stronger-than-expected sales in December and January will lead to fourth-quarter earnings of 35 cents to 40 cents a share. The six-analyst forecast called for 28 cents vs. the year-ago 46 cents.
let go of 4 5/8, or 11.8%, to 34 1/2 after last night posting fourth-quarter earnings of 60 cents a share, up from 53 cents a year ago but 2 cents shy of the five-analyst estimate. Bear Stearns cut the insurer to attractive from buy.
Elsewhere in the sector,
declined 7 9/16, or 13.6%, to 48 1/4 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 71 cents a share, up from 64 cents a year ago but 2 cents shy of the 12-analyst estimate. Bear Stearns also sliced it to attractive from buy.
, which designs software for the insurance industry, tanked 9 7/16, or 19%, to 40 3/8 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 51 cents a share, up from 42 cents a year ago and in line with the seven-analyst estimate.
Robbins & Myers
sloughed off 2 5/8, or 11.7%, to 19 3/4 after warning its second-quarter earnings will fall as much as 30% shy of the five-analyst estimate of 39 cents. A year ago, the company earned 61 cents a share.
Shared Medical Systems
jumped 7 5/16, or 17%, to 50 5/16 after posting fourth-quarter profits of 69 cents a share, 2 cents better than both the 20-analyst estimate and year-ago results.
Systems Software Associates
dropped 3/4, or 15.8%, to 4 1/32 after warning it sees first-quarter results falling below the four-analyst outlook for a repeat of the year-ago loss of 2 cents a share. The company blamed lower software license revenue.
spiked up 1 1/4, or 6.7%, to an annual high of 19 15/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 28 cents a share, a nickel better than the two-analyst average and 2 cents better than year-ago results.
swelled 2, or 9.3%, to 23 9/16 after posting fourth-quarter earnings before items of 47 cents a share, beating the seven-analyst estimate of 31 cents.
In other earnings news:
rose 1 5/8, or 5%, to 34 after Bear Stearns lifted it to buy from neutral.
climbed 15/16, or 6.6%, to 15 1/4 after BT Alex. Brown raised it to strong buy from buy.
slipped 1/4, or 9.5%, to 2 3/8 after
lowered the stock to hold from accumulate.
added 5 7/16, or 9.2%, to 64 9/16 after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
upgraded it to outperform from neutral.
Laboratory Corp. of America
flew up 5/16, or 17.2%, to 2 1/8 after Credit Suisse First Boston upped its recommendation to buy from hold.
rallied 1 3/4, or 7.2%, to 26 1/16 thanks to an upgrade by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to strong buy from neutral.
shot up 7/8, or 16.5%, to 6 3/16 after Prudential Securities initiated coverage with a strong buy.
lifted 9/16 to 56 1/16 after its
unit asked a federal judge for a temporary restraining order to end a pilots' "sickout," which the airline said caused it to cancel hundreds of flights. American canceled 900 flights today. Pilots are upset about how American will integrate 300 pilots from
into the 9,200-pilot American system.
Monsanto brought in 2 3/8, or 5.3%, to 47 1/2 after
The Wall Street Journal
reported that the company's arthritis-pain drug, Celebrex, was generating prescriptions in its third week on the market that are more than six times those of the fast-selling cholesterol drug, Lipitor, at a comparable stage.
Rushmore Financial Group
warpzoned up 9 5/8, or 427.7%, to an all-time high of 11 3/4 after launching an Internet-based unit called
designed specifically for day traders.
took in 5 3/16 to 118 1/2 after raising prices 5% on selected digital copiers and printers, beginning April 1.