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After days of wild gyrations, the market's been reasonably calm this week, taking its cues from releases of corporate earnings.

But a profit

warning from

National Semiconductor


has taken down the semiconductor sector today and hit some related technology companies. National Semiconductor lost 32.8%, and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

, which tracks the chip sector, is off 6.7%. Equipment maker



is currently off 9.5% and

Applied Materials


is losing 7.7%.

Investors' mettle is being tested in the afternoon, and like Brave Sir Robin, they're running away from that test. Selling in the tech sector is increasing, especially among chip makers and computer companies. The

Nasdaq was losing steam as the afternoon progressed. And the

Dow was trimming its gains as technology components in the index weakened.



started the day on the plus side, but was lately off 7.2% to $91.25.

Semiconductor maker

Texas Instruments


, which

reported strong earnings last week, is also sliding after a downgrade this afternoon by

Banc of America Securities


Big-cap technology stocks were weak again.



remains soft and other networking companies, including

JDS Uniphase


, are down sharply.

Fiber optic companies are weak for the second day running after Monday's strong earnings release from




wrote a

separate story on Corning's earning. It was lately off 7.2%.

The New York Stock Exchange's stalwarts are airline and transportation stocks.

Southwest Airlines


was upgraded by

Raymond James

and was lately rallying, up 3.6%. The

American Stock Exchange Airline Index

gained 1.2%, helping lift the

Dow Jones Transportation Average


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Sector Watch

Strength abounds in industrial company stocks.

General Electric


rebounded from yesterday's weakness after the announcement of its proposed merger with fellow Dow component




General Motors


advanced sharply, up 2.6%, and

General Dynamics


, an aerospace and defense company, hit a new 52-week high of $69.31 today, but was lately traded at $68.38.

Chemical companies are benefiting from a strong earnings report out of

Nova Chemicals


, which was lately up 3%.

Dow Chemical


is gaining 8.4%, and the

S&P Chemical Index

jumped 5%.

No tissues needed here. Paper companies are doing well today.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Forest & Paper Products Index

rose 6.1%.

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After three days of gains, the bond market has pulled back today. Investors are less motivated to move to safe investments because recent unrest in the Middle East isn't capturing the headlines in the same way it was last week. And the stock market isn't giving investors an excuse to pile out of equities.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note was at 100 25/32, down 12/32 and yielding 5.644%.

The 30-year

Treasury bondis at 107 16/32, 18/32 lower, to yield 5.721%.

In economic data, the

BTM Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales Index


definition |

chart ) fell 0.2% in the week ending October 21 after a 0.5% rise in the previous period.

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