For many, what's next is combing the kosher section of the local grocery store for tonight's Passover seder (sorry, New Yorkers,
is closed for the rest of the week) or picking up some
and egg dye for Sunday. For, fittingly, on this last day of the first quarter, there's not much else in the what's-next treasure chest.
Maybe we'll see some consolidation, maybe another leg up. But for the near-term, the biggies have been covered. Dow 10,000 -- check.
meeting -- check. Earnings preannouncements -- check. The only news nugget to look forward to is the
, to be released Friday, a day when the stock market is closed and most folks will spend the day at their kitchen tables, not their trading desks.
Meanwhile, expectations for an end-of-quarter rally were met with an early-morning fizzle (before a modest afternoon recovery) in the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
and continued strength in tech, especially Internets.
Ed Nicoski, chief market strategist at
U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray
in Minneapolis, blamed weakness in the Dow on weakness in today's bond market. Bonds fell this morning on news of a climb in the
Chicago Purchasing Managers Index
, a gauge of Midwestern manufacturing activity. A day after the
Federal Open Market Committee
left short-term interest rates
unchanged, Nicoski said investors are still worried about the economy overheating and the
The 30-year Treasury lately was down 27/32 to 94 12/32, sending its yield up to 5.64%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early
in stocks is pretty infinitesimal, though," argued Robert Robbins, market strategist at
in Atlanta, around noon. "It's nothing that significant. The
is down less than 1/4%, you know? ... But that bonds are getting clocked does seem to be the story of the day, in what would otherwise be a day up on window-dressing."
After popping at the open and rising as high as 10,002.34, the Dow lately was up 7 to 9920.
, off 8.4%, continued to exert pressure on the blue-chip index after an Oregon jury yesterday awarded more than $80 million to the family of a longtime
smoker who died of lung cancer. Also lending a hand in the negativity were
Over in the ever-consolidating banking sector,
Republic New York
was up 4.3% on chatter that
Bank of New York
is planning to take out the company. BONY was up 0.9%. Meanwhile, the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
was down 0.1%.
The broader S&P 500 was up 1 to 1302, while the small-cap
was up 1 to 400. The tech-crammed
Nasdaq Composite Index
was up 19 to 2499. The
Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35
was up 1.8% and the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
was up 2%.
Robbins said the other big story of today was that
were rallying on a report from
saying that in late March PC makers experienced some relief from the recent slowdown. Dell was up 1 9/16 to 41 1/2; Intel was up 9/16 to 122 1/8.
"But the market's at an all-time high and these stocks are still under pressure and still aren't out of the woods," Robbins said. "Dell is down 24% from its closing high and Intel is down 13% from its closing high. But with all the pushing and pulling, the short-term downtrend could reverse at anytime." Still a believer in the "super-bull market," Robbins predicts the Dow will hit 10,500 sometime this summer and finish the year around 10,100, due to Y2K concerns and end-of-the-year seasonal weakness.
, rising 6.1%,
, climbing 4%, and
, hopping 3%, were aflame thanks to announcements of new services and joint ventures. Doesn't hurt that these stellar performers are a lovely final touch to any money manager's first-quarter report.
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index was up 9 to 653, and
TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index
was up 2 to 113.
"We've seen strength in tech in recent days so it's natural that people are going to window-dress here for the best performance," said Nicoski, who believes large-cap technology stocks, and large-caps in general, have further correcting to do in the near-term.
The strategist is one of those folks who has a real problem with the nature of recent major-index highs -- that the chosen few have basked in new-highs glory while "your average stock is down 25%." In a word, breadth.
"For seven weeks, we've seen new lows exceeding new highs," Nicoski said. "The market is not healthy anymore. The Dow is making new highs while most stocks are seeing more new lows. I'm waiting for the bear market
on your average stock to conclude. And if you're looking at the Dow and S&P, you're waiting for the bull market to conclude."
He said he sees the major indices trading range-bound to lower, with continued rotation out of tech stocks into energy, industrial and commodities. "There's no compelling reason to see a rise in small-cap stocks," he added. "This market wants liquidity. The large-caps will have to fall first."
But Robbins argued that it's not really a narrow market if the majority of the value and the majority of solid earnings come from the top 50 companies. He said: "What's wrong with the top 50 companies generating superior earnings and the majority of the value and being a huge part of the economic activity? The majority is doing well in that sense. Maybe as far as the total number of companies, it's a narrow market, but maybe there are too many companies out there. What's the matter with a lot of M&A activity, a concentration of value, and merged companies cutting costs and being more productive? Hey, that's free enterprise."
Today's mixed market internals, however, weren't changing Nicoski's mind. On the
New York Stock Exchange
, advancers were narrowly leading decliners 1,466 to 1,333 on 524 million shares. But the downs had the ups 1,865 to 1,776 on 560 million shares in
Nasdaq Stock Market
activity. New 52-week lows were leading new highs by 84 to 30 on the Big Board and by 82 to 73 on the Nasdaq.
Wednesday's Midday Movers
Aaron L. Task
If you look up "juggernaut" in the dictionary (online, naturally) you might see a picture of America Online. Despite a potentially debilitating article in today's
Wall Street Journal
, AOL was up a further 5 3/4, or 4%, to 150 5/16 of late, though down from its intraday best of 155.
initiated coverage with a buy rating.
Other Net leaders were following AOL's lead, notably Amazon.com, up 10 1/16, or 6.1%, to 174 7/8, while
was higher by 14 7/6, or 10.8%, to 148 1/2 after setting a 2-for-1 stock split.
Also, a new series of stock intended to track
Internet business division, was up 15 1/8, or 80%, to 34 1/4 from its IPO price of $19 a share. Ziff Davis, however, was down 6, or 21%, to 23.
On the other side of the ledger, Philip Morris was down a further 3 3/16, or 8.3%, to 34 5/8 after falling 8.4%
yesterday. An Oregon jury awarded $80.3 million to the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
cut its recommendation to neutral from strong buy. Other tobacco makers were down in sympathy, notably
British American Tobacco
, down 13/16, or 4.5%, to 17 1/4,
, lower by 1 5/16, or 4.7%, to 26 7/16, and
, down 2 7/16, or 3.1%, to 76 1/8.
was up 1, or 5.6%, to 19 after forecasting its first-quarter earnings will be about 60 cents a share, up from 53 cents a year ago and the nine-analyst consensus calling for the same.
Bed Bath & Beyond
was up 2 1/8, or 6.2%, to 36 11/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 24 cents a share, 2 cents above the 16-analyst estimate and ahead of the year-ago 17 cents.
BrightStar Information Technology
was down 1 7/16, or 27%, to 4 after posting a forth-quarter loss of 13 cents vs. the two-analyst estimate of an 18-cent profit. The company went public last April, so no year-ago results are available.
was down 2 1/4, or 14.5%, to 13 1/2 after warning
last night it sees first-quarter earnings of 2 cents to 4 cents a share. The single-analyst forecast called for 13 cents vs. the year-ago 32 cents.
was down 13 9/16, or 31.5%, to 29 3/4, after saying it will post a third-quarter loss of 35 cents to 45 cents a share, including charges. Excluding the charges, Etec expects earnings of 10 cents. The 12-analyst view called for earnings of 26 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 47 cents.
was down 1 3/8, or 8.3%, to 15 1/2 after posting a fourth-quarter loss of 10 cents, reversing a gain of 10 cents a year ago. No estimates were available.
was down 1 1/16, or 19.3%, to 4 1/2 after saying it expects fourth-quarter earnings to fall below the single-analyst estimate for 17 cents a share. The company earned 21 cents a year ago.
was down 1 3/16, or 51.4%, to 1 1/8 after reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $8.68 a share vs. a loss $3.65 a year ago. Results for both periods include one-time items; the company did not provide fully diluted results. KCS also said it is in violation of covenants of its revolving credit agreements.
MSC Industrial Direct
was up 1 1/16, or 7.2%, to 15 3/4 after posting second-quarter earnings of 22 cents a share, on target with the 10-analyst prediction and above the year-ago 17 cents.
was down 1, or 6.4%, to 14 19/32, after saying its first-quarter operating profit margins, excluding expected one-time charges, are expected to be lower than it previously forecast due to lower-than-expected revenues.
was up 1 5/16, or 22.6%, to 7 3/16 after saying it expects first-quarter earnings to come in at or slightly above the single-analyst estimate of 8 cents a share. The company made 16 cents a year ago.
was up 3 7/8, or 20.5%, to 22 13/16 after it reported fourth-quarter earnings of 64 cents a share, 2 cents ahead of the 16-analyst view and above the year-ago 53 cents. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upped its recommendation to outperform from neutral.
was up 9/16, or 8.3%, to 7 3/8 despite saying it expects to break-even in the first quarter. The company said planned layoffs will result in a quarter charge of $11 million to $12 million. The nine-analyst prediction called for earnings of 10 cents vs. the year-ago 13 cents.
In other news:
was down 7/8, or 7%, to 11 9/16 after the firm's board declined offers to sell its
reopened after a halt and was down 2 1/2, or 4%, to 59 1/2. The medical device maker announced that some of its pacemakers have batteries that lose power more quickly than normal. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter earlier had upped its earning estimates on the company.
was up 5/16, or 20.8%, to 1 13/16 after announcing it has renegotiated its bank revolving credit agreement with its lenders.
was up 4 1/16, or 14.8%, to 31 9/16 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upped its recommendation to strong buy from outperform.
was down 7/16, or 10.3%, to 3 7/8 after the company delayed the filing of its annual report due to problems completing its 1998 audit.
US Office Products
was up 11/16, or 19.6%, to 4 3/16 after its largest investor agreed to infuse $51 million in cash. In exchange, the fund managed by
Clayton Dubilier & Rice
received a new class of nonvoting preferred stock convertible into about 7.3 million common shares.
was up 3 1/16, or 8%, to 41 5/8 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upped its price target to 60 from 50.