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Hey, guys -- do you think you could speed up the process a little? It's already been five weeks of this malarkey already. Both Wall Street and Main Street are anxiously awaiting the

U.S. Supreme Court's

ruling on the Florida recount, which, if there's any justice in the world, will come out sometime before Inauguration Day. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the stock market ended mixed and calm.


Dow Jones Industrial Average ended on the upside, but off its triple-digit session highs. The

Nasdaq Composite Index ended where it was all day -- stuck in the red. Volume was moderate and the losers plentiful as traders were spending a lot of time waiting and less time mucking around in the pits.

Remember yesterday? Well, just invert the picture, and you've got today's market action. Tech names were suffering at the expense of nontechnology stocks as investors made quality stocks a priority. In fact, the predilection toward industry and manufacturing came despite the Dow components doing more trash-talking than the guest list at a Jerry Springer taping.




pulled down merger partner

General Electric


after it said it would miss fourth-quarter earnings estimates. Last night, General Electric CEO Jack Welch said his company is on track to meet 2000 estimates and that he's comfortable with 2001 estimates. Still, GE was down 4.5% to $52.81, while Honeywell was 5.8% lower to $52.

Another General was marching today.

General Motors

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announced it would phase out its unprofitable Oldsmobile line over the next few years and cut its salaried work force by 10%. The automaker said it will take a nonrecurring charge, which will hurt earnings in the fourth quarter. Investors liked the news, and GM was up 0.4% to $51.75.


Eastman Kodak


warned that its fourth-quarter earnings would miss expectations, citing a slowdown in consumer demand that's causing retailers to reduce inventories. Logic would follow that the stock would have fallen on the news, but there's no logic in an uncertain, oversold market, and it was up 3.8% to $41.06.

In happier blue-chip news,

Procter & Gamble


jumped 4.2% ton $71.94 after its counterpart



said it sees a good fourth quarter and that its earnings will meet estimates. Colgate lifted 4.3% to $58.98 on the news.

Meanwhile, despite denying rumors about accounting problems at

Sun Microsystems


, the stock suffered. It was off 0.4% to $33.88 amid questions about its growth prospects.

Some of the most active stocks on the Nasdaq that tanked of late included

JDS Uniphase









The biggest slacker on the tech-heavy index was

TriQuint Semiconductor


, which was downgraded by

Credit Suisse First Boston

because the firm felt its high valuation was unwarranted. TriQuint ended off 19.7% to $49.31

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Sector Watch

Natural gassers have been a rip-roarin', rock-n'-rolling good time lately as the price of natural gas futures trades higher. Winter's here, and forecasts call for a rather nasty one. With the cold fronts in the Midwest, for example, these companies can capitalize on a highly profitable situation: high demand and high prices.

Still, give the

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

a little bit of a breather. After posting wins in six of the last seven sessions, ramping up 12.4% over that span, the index gave back 0.1%. Futures were weighing heavily on the sector as well. After gaining 10% yesterday, natural gas futures on the

New York Mercantile Exchange

were down 12.9%.

Chemical stocks were having a great day, after dropping lower yesterday, with the

S&P Chemical Index

headed higher along with




Paper stocks traded higher as



continued to play hard to get. The company spurned



unsolicited takeover bid of $48 a share, in an unsurprising move that echoed previous sentiment from the paper company's board. The company had said the same thing on Nov. 15 -- that Weyerhaeuser's $48 a share bid was not in the best interest of its shareholders.

For the past month, Willamette has been dodging the advances from its rival, which began the buyout procedure some time ago by approaching Willamette with a private offer. That low offer was rejected and then Weyerhaeuser returned with a better one, which was also discarded. Eventually, frustrated, the company took its bid for Willamette public. Weyerhaeuser tried a move called a "bear hug," in which a takeover target's board is pressured through its investors, who presumably then clamor for a merger. But Willamette stood its ground and staunchly refused to budge.

Willamette was lately off fractionally, down 38 cents, or 0.8%, to $48.63, and Weyerhaeuser fell 50 cents to $45.75. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Forest & Paper Products Index

, of which both companies are card-carrying members, fell 0.7%.

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Treasuries were narrowly mixed on light volume and little news, as the nation awaited the Supreme Court's ruling on the presidential election in Florida.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was up 2/32 at 102 30/32, yielding 5.354%.

The only economic news of the day, the weekly retail sales reports, was surprisingly weak. The reports have lately been welcomed by the bond market, because they have indicated that economic growth is slowing. The

BTM Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales Index


definition |

chart ) fell 0.3% in the latest week. The

Redbook Retail Average


definition |

chart ) found December sales running even with November after two weeks, compared to a target of 1% ahead.

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