A typical day of shopping errands generally includes items like new pants, cigarettes, brake fluid, potato chips, soda, tissues, masking tape, aspirin and jet engines. (OK, jet engines are a reach, but considering the size of some of these stores, one never knows.) Companies that make those products, and the stores that sell them, are up today.
Which means the defensive stocks in the
Dow Jones Industrial Average are hanging on, while the rest of the market continues to slide. The average, higher for most of the morning, is now down, as investors are taking losses in technology and extending them to other sectors.
S&P 500 was lately down too, and the
Nasdaq Composite Index is falling, as investors watch, a day after Presidents' Day, their Lincolns and Washingtons get flushed down the toilet. After Friday's selloff -- led by
-- investors are wary of technology, and the Nasdaq's losses have mounted as the trading day progresses.
Among the hardest-hit Nasdaq stocks today are tech bellwethers
. Both, in fact, have hit a 52-week low today: Cisco, the most actively traded stock on the Nasdaq, was lately down 6.4% to $26.50, while Sun was down 1.6% to $22.88. Meanwhile,
, which warned last week of ongoing weakness in earnings, was also in the dumpster, losing 5.3%.
Optical player and market darling
was another stock touching a new low today. The second most actively traded issue on the Nasdaq, it was lately down 7.1% to $33.25.
The malaise in technology is blamed on a
muddled earnings picture. For several quarters, expectations for earnings were overly optimistic; investors were bitten in the tushes for their belief that the growth rates of 1999 and early 2000 would continue with no problem. Executives are no longer sure what coming quarters hold, and despite a January surge founded on the expectation that Fed rate cuts would quickly reverse a staggering economy, the earnings picture is still dank.
The Dow, meanwhile, was seeing a tug-of-war between its tech components and those defensive names. Blue-chip techs
were taking off a combined 43 points at last look.
The Dow's stars today were retailing giant
and home-improvement leader
. They were doing their darnedest to try to keep the index afloat. Wal-Mart
beat estimates, while Home Depot
met lowered earnings estimates, and investors were buying those stocks. The
S&P Retail Index
was lately up 2.7%.
The other stocks doing a tremendous job today were food stocks.
Tricon Global Restaurants
hit a new 52-week high today, gaining 1.3%, while food service, grocery, beverage and beer stocks were all stronger today.
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Financials and tech stocks were getting the most flack from investors. The
American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index
was off 4.1%, the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
was down 2.5%.
The tech sector was getting soaked. The PC makers, the chipmakers and the networking stocks were all taking it on the chin. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index was down 3.7%, the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
dropped 4.4% and the
American Stock Exchange Networking Index
was down 3.1%.
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Treasury prices are down in very thin trading as the money market has little to respond to except equity movements. According to
, which does market flow analysis, current trading volume is about 50% lower than the average of last week.
Notes and bonds, after having sold higher in the previous session due to very weak -- and potentially inflationary -- reports on producer prices and consumer sentiment, seem to be sliding again in response to rising stocks. Analysts expect this trend to continue for most of this week.
The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note lately was down 4/32 to 99, raising its yield to 5.129%.
Standard & Poor's
speculative grade credit index, which measures the difference between the yields of government Treasuries and those of bonds rated below BBB+, was at 894.5 basis points, or 8.945%, on Friday. The difference has steadily decreased from a high of 10.74% on Jan. 2, just before the
Federal Reserve began cutting rates. Expectation that the economy will recover with help from the Fed has sent U.S. Treasury prices lower on weakening demand, preventing yields from falling further. (Prices and yields move inversely.) This has contributed to the narrowing of the index.
A recent survey by the
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
estimates that the U.S.
gross domestic product
) should grow by about 2.2% in 2001, down from the 3.3% annual growth that was forecast two months ago. However, that's not likely to jolt the market, as most economists and regional Fed presidents lately have been pegging the growth rate at 2% to 2.5%.
There is no economic news due out today.
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