Stocks were weaker out of the gate as investors sifted through a light calendar of earnings and economic news today. Blue chips were turning the tables, while tech stocks were down in the dumps. Investors continue to look for clues as to how rising energy prices and a weakening euro will affect the picture for corporate profits.
Nasdaq Composite Index followed the path carved out by morning futures trading, lately off 40 to 3857. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average shrugged off the weakness and was lately up 36 to 10,723.
S&P 500 was down 8.3 to 1444, while the
Russell 2000 was down 2.6 to 518.9.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
stirred things up in the financial sector with a mixed bag of numbers for its third-quarter earnings report. The investment bank reported earnings of $1.09 a share, missing the 14-analyst estimate of $1.17, but up from year-ago earnings of 83 cents a share. Still, Morgan Stanley reported a 28% jump in third-quarter profits due to trading gains.
The news that it missed the consensus estimate came as a bit of a surprise, since fellow brokerage firms
posted strong earnings results earlier this week. Morgan Stanley, whose trades have gone in fits and starts this morning, was lately tumbling $9.31, or 9.7%, to $86.63.
The equity market, having lost all of its August gains in the first two and a half weeks of September, got a shot in the arm this morning from one of its most long-term bullish names, Goldman Sachs' chief strategist Abby Joseph Cohen.
The Goldman strategist today reiterated her current equity allocation and said the market's concerns about oil, the euro and earnings are "overdone." She said the intermediate and long-term view on the market remains "bright."
Other strategists agree with that. Peter Cardillo, chief strategist at
says all the current negativity will eventually give way to upside or a relief rally. He expressed optimism about the third-quarter earnings outlook. "The elimination process of the above
earnings, energy prices and euro weakness will begin with corporate earnings. From a contrarian viewpoint, when negative sentiment increases to its heights, a turnaround usually sets in. The more negative news, the greater the chance that an elimination process will take hold, and we could see a reversal process set in. Until then, it's going to be choppy," he said.
Though most indicators have lately been backing up the notion that inflation is in check, investors appear unwilling to let down their guard as long as oil prices continue to bump up against decade highs on supply concerns. And the
euro, which has been steadily touching new lows, is not exactly inspiring confidence in multinational companies.
has been covering the oil crisis carefully. Our most
recent story appeared yesterday.
has been tracking companies that have issued warnings about upcoming earnings, most of which have been affected by the weak euro or high oil prices -- or both. A chart of these warnings is
published separately. Volatility has been the name of the game in the past few trading sessions, as the market reacts quickly -- and not always rationally -- to the slew of earnings previews, both good and bad.
"From a technical standpoint, the market needs to bounce. The Dow has broken down and is approaching support levels -- we might get a relief rally," Cardillo said. "The Nasdaq, which did reach support levels earlier in the week, has bounced off them," he said, referring to the Comp's triple-digit-twist on Tuesday.
For now, at least, it doesn't look like a clear direction will emerge any time soon. Even as the tech-heavy Nasdaq screamed higher on Tuesday, traders were talking of a dead-cat bounce and wondering whether the move had any conviction. By yesterday morning, the answer would have been a resounding "no." But at the close, that answer had turned into a resounding "maybe."
Also on the earnings front, cruise operator
posted third-quarter earnings of 67 cents a share, beating the consensus estimate of 64 cents. The stock has been scraping the bottom of a trading range for most of the year and is down more than 50% year to date. Lately it was sailing up 75 cents, or 4%, to $22.94.
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Lately, the benchmark 10-year Treasury was flat at 98 27/32, yielding 5.91%.
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Financials were falling lower in the wake of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's disappointing earnings report. The
American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index
was off 3.6%, while the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange KBW/Bank Index
was losing 2.1%.
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