Updated from 9:43 a.m. EST
Another round of discouraging earnings news, more job cuts at some high-profile companies, plus anxious anticipation of Wednesday's fateful interest rate decision sank stocks at the open, and an attempt at a comeback on the
S&P 500 and the
Dow faded fast.
The seesaw struggle between earnings -- the near-term negative -- and rate cuts -- the long-term positive -- rages on. The tech-laden
Nasdaq Composite Index has risen smartly since the beginning of the year but tossed languidly last week, gaining just 12.8 points to 2781.3. Investors seemed immune to bad earnings news for a while, but technology companies continue to warn about weakness in coming quarters, and no one is quite sure when the economy or earnings will turn.
Fed kicks off a two-day meeting Tuesday, and it will announce how much it's cutting interest rates on Wednesday afternoon. The Fed already lowered rates by a half point to 6% early this month, and the overwhelming majority of the market is expecting another half-point cut. Anything less than 50 basis points on Wednesday, and stocks could drop.
Meanwhile, the growing number of companies announcing job cuts is unsettling. While job cuts help companies cut costs, they are not a good sign for economic recovery. As more and more job-slashing unfurls, consumers' confidence further erodes. And weak consumer confidence is currently one of the biggest threats to a snowballing slowdown in the economy.
Layoffs and a soft stock market have already cut into consumer spending, putting a dent in retailer profits.
Investors were picking and choosing their tech bellwethers with care, and Internet king
was lately up 2.1% and boxmaker
was up 1.8%.
The most actively traded stock on the Nasdaq was networking tycoon
, which was falling 6.2% after CEO John Chambers over the weekend
said that January was far more challenging than he had originally thought. Chambers did say, however, that the company's long-term outlook had improved. Cisco's CEO made
similar remarks earlier this month.
Semiconductor stocks were weak all over, while the PC makers were mixed. Financials were relatively strong after
J.P. Morgan Chase
J.P. Morgan Chase and the Dow's other financial component
were both moderately higher, up 0.9% and 3%.
The Dow was getting the most heft from diversified industrial
, however, which was adding 8.33 points of upside to the index. And consumer products companies
Procter & Gamble
were the biggest weights on the Dow, slashing 18.87 points from the index. Consumer cyclical stocks tend to benefit in a slowing economy because their earnings are more immune to changes in the pace of economic growth.
Elsewhere in the market, telecom and cable television giant
was falling after reporting fourth-quarter earnings down 51% from a year ago to 26 cents per share, in line with much lowered analyst estimates. The company's stock was off 1.8% to $22.88. The company also said that due to its restructuring plan it won't meet first-quarter estimates, which should fall in the same range as its fourth-quarter results. Fourth-quarter revenues rose to $16.88 billion from $16.4 billion in the year-ago period. The company
cut its outlook for both earnings and revenue for the fourth quarter several times last year due to declining prices in the long-distance market.
was rising, however, despite missing lowered analyst estimates by a penny and the year-ago figure by 10 cents a share. The
troubled company's stock price has been trashed in the past 12 months, so investors were playing buy on the news, and Xerox was lately up 7.7% to $12.23. Xerox also said it would cut 4,000 jobs in the first quarter, or 4% of its total workforce, with more job cuts planned for later in the year.
Another job-slasher, automaker
, was falling 1.5% after it announced it's cutting 26,000 jobs. Last week, Swedish mobile-phone giant
announced job cuts.
recently wrote about the repercussions of a growing round of
Ahead of its earnings report tomorrow, mobile-phone handsetmaker
was falling 1.5% to $36.69. Analysts expect Nokia will be the only handsetmaker to report a year-over-year gain this quarter, but the company has already lowered its estimates for worldwide cell phone demand in 2001. And other mobile-phone makers have issued disappointing earnings or outlooks this quarter. Swedish mobile-phone giant Ericsson was off 2.2%, while
was falling 4.2%.
Motorola recently reported earnings that were in line with twice-lowered estimates but 10 cents per share lower than the year-ago figure. The company also posted a 20% drop in order growth in its communications business and a 19% decrease in growth in its chip business.
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Brokerages were the biggest winners today, and the
American Stock Exchange Securities Broker/Dealer Index
was up 2.2%. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
was lifting 0.7%.
Select defensive sectors were rising, including the paper stocks, transports, utilities and tobacco.
Most tech sectors were falling, except for biotech stocks and some PC makers. The semiconductor sector was one of the weakest on the market, with the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
was tumbling 2.6%.
TheStreet.com Internet Sector Index
was down 0.8%.
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Bond prices were flat this morning. The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note was lately unchanged at 103 19/32, yielding 5.266%.
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