Market Update: Earnings Worries Spark Sell-off in Early Action - TheStreet

Tech stocks ducked lower this morning, while blue-chip industrials were tickling the flatline as a relatively murky earnings picture -- threatened by ever higher oil prices and a troubled euro -- put pressure on the market.

The euro didn't get much boost following what's being regarded as a "quasi-intervention" by the

European Central Bank

yesterday morning, while energy prices rose again this morning to $34.94 a barrel.

TheStreet.com

wrote an earlier

story on the latest euro news.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index was lately off 66 to 3848 after failing to hold on to spectacular early gains yesterday. Tech benchmarks semiconductor

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and software behemoth

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

were doing their part to drag on the index, down 3% and 2.8%, respectively.

Meanwhile,

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

was helping to temper the

Dow Jones Industrial Average's losses. ExxonMobil was lately up 3.3%, while the Dow was down 17 to 11,071.

Software giant

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

was taking it on the chin this morning as investors reacted to disappointing applications-software sales, which were reported yesterday after the close. A much stronger-than-expected earnings per share number wasn't giving the stock any relief. Oracle was a hefty 4.8% lower.

A couple of other software companies were dropping in sympathy.

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

and

PeopleSoft

(PSFT)

were trading down 1% and 1.4%, respectively. But

Adobe Systems

(ADBE) - Get Report

, the leading maker of publishing and graphic-design software, was shooting higher after it said sales would rise at least 25% in the fourth quarter and fiscal 2001. Adobe was lately up 7.2%.

And

Red Hat

(RHAT)

was getting killed after

ABN-Amro

cut the stock's rating to outperform from buy. ABN-Amro cited concern about future revenue growth for the company. The Linux operating system distributor reported a penny loss per share Thursday.

Appliance-maker

Maytag

(MYG)

was hurting after it warned its earnings could be down 8% to 10% for the third and fourth quarters. Maytag was 7.2% lower.

Investors were mostly ignoring the morning's benign economic data. August's headline

Consumer Price Index came in at a 0.1% drop vs. expectations of a 0.2% rise, while the core -- which is minus food and energy -- was right in line with expectations at a 0.2% jump.

Industrial production and capacity came in up 0.3%, while capacity utilization remained at 82.3% vs. an expected 82%.

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Sector Watch

Oil and natural gas stocks were getting a major boost this morning after

J.P. Morgan

was positive on the sector due soaring growth in demand. The

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

was lately up 2.5%, while the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

was up 3.8%.

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Bonds/Economy

The 10-year Treasury note was lately down 4/32 at 99 17/32 and yielding 5.812%.

The CPI fell 0.1% in August, its first drop in 14 years, but a 2.9% drop in energy prices was to blame. The core CPI -- which excludes food and energy and is a more stable barometer of inflation trends -- rose 0.2%, in line with the average forecast. The sharp rise in oil prices over the last month is expected to produce a considerably less friendly September CPI.

The annual growth rate of the CPI edged down to 3.4% in August from 3.5% in July.

The Treasury market is continuing the trend that started earlier this week, favoring short-term securities at the expense of long-term ones. The move is based on the view that the Fed is finished raising interest rates and may contemplate cutting them if global growth hits a series of speed bumps.

Yesterday, an early rally in the bond market -- after a surprisingly friendly reading on inflation at the wholesale level -- morphed into a sell-off that moved the 30-year bond's yield decisively higher than the 10-year note's yield for the first time since January. The sell-off came amid shifting views on monetary policy and heavy issuance of corporate bonds.

TheStreet.com

wrote a separate article on the steepening

Treasury curve.

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