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Traders? Traders? Anyone? Bueller?

At the close, Wall Street was like Ben Stein after a Quaalude milkshake. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average and

Nasdaq Composite Index posted slight losses, after spending most of the day within 10 points of the opening number.

Volume was thin.

Real thin

.

Simply put, volume has been the real story today. At last check, volume on the

New York Stock Exchange

was 878 million, while volume at the

Nasdaq Stock Market

was 1.7 billion. On a busy day, the NYSE pushes well past 1.4 million shares traded, while the Nasdaq can easily top 2 billion.

On the Dow, where the vast majority of stocks were trading lightly and making little in the way of movement, that throbbing, red welt on

General Motors'

(GM) - Get Report

stock kinda stood out. A little. The company, which gained close to $4 yesterday, gave nearly all of that gain back today. The automaker added 24 to the Dow's negative side. Also not helping:

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

.

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

added 12 to the Dow's plus side, while 14 of the industrials were positive, helping to balance the tape.

Over on the Nasdaq,

Cisco's

(CSCO) - Get Report

fallout has swept through the market.

Here are some givens: death, taxes and Cisco

releasing earnings that beat analyst estimates by a penny, while guiding estimates higher for future quarters.

Sure, it doesn't really have the same ring as the cliche it's based on, but it's just as true. Last night, Cisco released third-quarter estimates that did just that, beating estimates by a penny. And after taking an early morning hit, the shares rebounded nicely and ended up $1.63 to $56.75.

Cisco's release has wreaked havoc in a myriad of other companies. First, its competitors felt the heat, thanks in part to some gloating in Cisco's conference call about the earnings. (CEO John Chambers said: "If we continue to execute effectively on our strategy, these large competitors have clearly given Cisco the opportunity to repeat our breakaway in the enterprise market in the service-provider market.")

As a result,

Lucent

(LU)

fell 1.8%,

Nortel

(NT)

was down 3.6% and

Juniper Networks

(JNPR) - Get Report

, a lesser competitor, was down 3.7%.

Semiconductors also took a hit. Within the earnings release, Cisco said it is carrying a large inventory, sparking fears that the company will not need to purchase as many chips from its suppliers. Specifically speaking, the company has 75 days of inventory on hand, up from 55 days, the highest peak since April 1996. And raw material inventory is up 335%.

As a result, the chipmakers fell.

Headed into the afternoon, markets were more than calm. They were dead.

Oh, and today is the presidential election, just in case you were concerned that it wouldn't get mentioned.

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Sector Watch

Chipmakers took it in the chops right from the opening bell. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

fell from the opening bell and ended near session lows. It was off 4.1%. None of this can be particularly pleasant for the semis, which took the seasonal change to fall more like a command and less like a gradual lowering of temperature. These guys have lost 38% since Sept. 1.

The semis were feeling pressure from Cisco's earnings release, which included a note about high inventories. People are concerned that the inventory means Cisco won't be placing orders for chips from these companies, adding yet another can of gasoline onto already burning fears of a semiconductor slowdown.

The worst chipmakers were the smaller guys.

Xilinx

(XLNX) - Get Report

,

Linear Technology

(LLTC)

,

Lattice Semiconductor

(LSCC) - Get Report

and

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

were far lower.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Motorola

(MOT)

were lower, but not nearly as bad.

In more positive news, boxmakers in the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Sector

was up 2.9%.

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Bonds/Economy

Bonds opened slightly lower but have since edged back to virtually unchanged levels as the market watches developments in the presidential election. (Bush is seen as negative for bonds while a Gore victory would probably have little effect. The reaction in the equities markets is likely to lead to an opposite response in bonds.) Once again, volume is light.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was lately flat at 99 2/32, to yield 5.878%.

The 30-year

Treasury bond was also flat, at 104 29/32, to yield 5.897%.

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