(Updated from 3:35 p.m. EST)
The rally fizzled. Boy, that didn't take too long.
The bears wrested control of the tape from the bulls just after midday, sending the
Nasdaq Composite Index deeper into the red while burying the
Dow Jones Industrial Average after it made the mistake of tracking higher earlier in the day.
After yesterday's 200-point rally, the Dow closed down 5 to 10, 638 (after being up about 50 points earlier). The Comp meanwhile, finished down 100 points, to 2208.
Tech came under pressure as the day wore on. Some fell due to more crabbing and puling from the analyst community, which has been backpedaling from earlier forecasts. Others fell because there's nothing bears like more than technology.
Networkers, dot-coms, biotechs, disk drive storage -- really, all of technology -- was in the dumps today as people took profits after yesterday's rally. Market internals have been terrible all day, with losers dominating winners.
There's really no reason to buy anything right now, because good news is in short supply. Without any solid leadership and no true growth stories emerging from Wall Street -- not in tech, anyway -- the impetus to buy has been nonexistent. Volume was quite thin, meaning that movements can be exaggerated if a bunch of trades happen in a hurry.
It was another tough day for the old portfolio, especially after
reduced estimates on a plethora of enterprise hardware companies, the big guns of the tech world.
Laura Conigliaro cut revenue and earnings-per-share figures on
"While valuations are becoming more tempting and we are getting closer to a bottom, with revenue and EPS bias still to the downside, we see little reason to rush into these stocks immediately," she wrote.
H-P fell 4.7%, while IBM dropped 2.6%. Both were drags on the Dow.
technology analyst, Steve Fortuna, downgraded
to mid-term neutral from accumulate, telling investors that more earnings revisions from the computer company would be likely. He said that consumer demand was unlikely to rebound in the second half of the year and that management was helpless to turn the ship around to deal with the dearth of demand.
"Also, and very importantly, we think there is a high likelihood that management significantly lowers its earnings per share outlook during its analyst meeting this week, well below the current $1.28 Street consensus," Fortuna said. "We are currently reviewing our fiscal 2001 EPS estimate of $1.42 pending the results of Gateway's analyst meeting."
So when is Gateway's meeting? Tonight and tomorrow. And Fortuna advised investors to use the meeting as an "opportunity to exit the shares."
He also said that Merrill was likely to readjust its estimates after the meeting, but really, advising investors to sell and citing future difficulties points to more operatic difficulties for the boxmaker. The markets have acted accordingly, dropping Gateway 6.2%, to $16.72.
Broadly, utilities and financials were getting the upside nod, but not in such great shakes that heads were turning. The
Dow Jones Utility Average
closed up slightly, by 0.3%.
Economic Data Say: "Ask Again Later"
Economic data, which hasn't been agreeing lately, continued to stymie traders who really want an intermeeting rate cut. Despite all the gloom and doom, it's worth noting that the major indices have been trending higher as the day has worn on.
Consumer confidence hit its lowest point in more than four years. Not coincidentally, American markets sat in losses after a report showed that orders of durable goods, pricey stuff like jumbo jets and cars, fell off a cliff in January. The economy is weak, consumers are not buying and the markets are unhappy.
Rumors abound that Fed chair Alan Greenspan will be saying something different during tomorrow's reiteration of his testimony formerly known as Humphrey-Hawkins to the House Finance Committee. What will he say? No one really knows for sure, but the testimony will give markets another look into the Fed's crystal ball. And with economic forces conflicting and an utter lack of direction, traders are counting on Greenie to help show the way.
The February consumer confidence index, something watched closely by the Fed, slipped to its lowest level since June 1996, coming in at 106.8 from January's 115.7. The analysts had expected 109.6, so this is something of a surprise. The Conference Board said the short-term outlook suggests a severe downturn and not a recession -- leaving many people doubting whether today's data was bad enough to warrant a cut prior to the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on March 20.
Durable goods orders came in pretty close to forecasts and showed that people weren't in the mood to spend tons of money on things during January. Demand for big-ticket goods fell 6% last month, much worse than December's 1.2% rise. Economists had expected a 3% drop for the month.
The picture is not good. Weak consumer confidence and slowing spending will retard economic growth. But that's offset by recent reports that seem to indicate inflation, rising prices and stronger-than-expected economic growth. Muddied economic waters have given way to a rise in uncertainty, which clearly, once again, markets don't like.
Back to top
Boy, usually when companies announce a restructuring, markets reward them with a little boost -- since the actions will offset current weakness. Things like cutting spending, slashing workforce and selling assets can help companies regain earnings growth.
Well, don't tell that to
. Despite the fact that this networking company announced it will trim its workforce by 3,000 employees, markets were not cheered so much -- or at all. It dropped 14.4%, leading the entire sector lower.
American Stock Exchange Networking Index
slid 5.9%. Other related names were destroyed too, as negative sentiment plagues this once-hot area.
Back to top
As stocks continue to trade either lower or in a volatile manner, investors were looking at bonds to store their cash. The long-maturity bonds were the place to be for big gains today, as the 10-year Treasury note gained 20/32 to 100 10/32 with a yield of 4.964%. Both the five-year and 30-year had big gains, too.
The three-month, six-month and one-year bills all sat with losses. The two-year was relatively flat.
Back to top