Updated from 3:44 p.m. EST
Wall Street continued "lame duck" trading ahead of Tuesday's opening of a two-day
Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Nevertheless, markets picked up a bit of steam as the trading day neared an end. Volume was anemic, so thin that even some of the most widely-held companies were barely alight, drifting along on a trickle of interest.
is a perfect example of a heavily traded company that sat like a stone. As a leader in the software field and a member of the
Dow Jones Industrial Average, it usually generates great interest, since it has a stranglehold on market share and therefore a direct impact on personal computermakers, chipmakers and the technology industry as a whole. Average volume for
baby is 48.1 million. At the close, it had traded 34 million shares and was barely changed in price.
That was emblematic of today's action. Trading on the
New York Stock Exchange was 960 million shares. Some might say that superstitious markets were unwilling to convert their minds into decimals, with the NYSE listing all of its stock prices in decimals -- and only decimals -- for the first time ever today. But no, the prospect of 3,500 decimalized companies was not keeping traders away -- the prospect of the
Federal Reserve's meeting was.
Since cutting the
federal funds rate by 50 basis points in a shocking midmeeting hike on the first Wednesday of 2001, speculation has moved away from the possibility of a 25 basis-point cut to the larger 50 basis-point cut. The markets rallied in the two weeks following the cut until last week, when both the Dow and the
Nasdaq Composite Index plateaued with traders making subtle reactions to a deluge of earnings releases. That sideways movement continued today.
If the Fed chooses to cut rates again, which seems likely, with the February
fed funds futures on the
Chicago Board of Trade
pricing in a 97% chance of a 50 basis-point cut, then this would be the first time since 1984 that such a large move was made in a short span, according to Tony Crescenzi,
chief fixed-income strategist. That was a long time ago, back when then Fed chief Paul Volker was forced to drastically slash interest rates after raising rates to the stratosphere in a four-year span from 1979 to 1983.
And with this meeting looming, nobody moved. And nobody got hurt.
Well, almost nobody.
dropped 3.1% after CEO John Chambers
said that January was going to be a lot tougher than he had originally anticipated. Not that there wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel. Chambers said the company's long-term outlook had improved.
Other networkers were also softer, but the damage was largely contained to Cisco. The
American Stock Exchange Networking Index
But overall the tech sector was higher, making strides into the green that grew a bit more convincing as the afternoon progressed. Biotechs were doing well, as were disk drive peripherals and personal computers. Dot-coms continued to rally, with the
TheStreet.com Internet Sector Index
tracking 3.6% higher, putting 2001's gain at more than 30%.
The churning action we've seen in 2001 also continued, as investors continue to balance their portfolio between growth stocks with little to no earnings and Old Economy giants with proven past performance and a staid future. Money was taken out of drugmakers, precious metals and petroleum-related stocks.
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index
was a loser, with the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold & Silver Index
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Well, there really wasn't so much to watch today. Not with the wide majority of sectors handcuffed to Friday's closing number. But an analyst move from
Credit Suisse First Boston
had some investors in a gambling mood, placing large bets on a sector that does pretty well even when consumer confidence dips and recessions are on the horizon -- casinos.
was upgraded to strong buy from buy while
was upgraded to buy from hold at CSFB, kicking the entire sector into the spotlight. Harrah's gained 3.1%, while Argosy gained 5.6%.
gained 6.6%, while
Mandalay Resort Group
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Treasury prices are mixed as the market awaits the results of the
FOMC meeting to be held over the next two days. Bond dealers are quite certain that the
Federal Reserve will announce another half- percent point cut in the fed funds rate after having heard Greenspan refer to the economy at a zero level of growth in his comments last week. The gap in yields between the short-term notes and the long bond remains very high and close to the limits it had reached three years ago when the Fed cut interest rates to counter the global credit crisis.
The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note lately was down 7/32 to 103 11/32, raising its yield to 5.299%.
There is no economic news today.
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