Market's Post-Fed Muddle Continues

With blue-chips down and techs up, the search for clarity on Wall Street goes on.
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The market was in need of a map this morning. Even a compass or a signpost would have helped. Stocks were doing their best to clear a path but it wasn't easy to reconcile yesterday's expected, and relatively friendly,

Fed

news with the storm rocking financial stocks after

Bank One

(ONE) - Get Report

issued an earnings warning.

Overall, stocks continued the same indecisive activity that characterized prior, rate-ruled days. "I think the market reacted pretty much as expected" to the

Federal Open Market Committee

meeting, said Jim Volk, co-director of institutional trading at

D.A. Davidson

in Portland, Ore. "After the rate increases were digested, we had a pretty good tone at the opening. Now its testing again with a little broader selloff." Volk said the selloff was mostly "just profit-taking." The markets have had pretty good moves and are relatively overextended, he said.

Meanwhile the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was staggering down 80, or 0.7%, to 11,204 under the weight of financial bellwethers

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

and

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

, which accounted for a sizable portion of the early downdraft.

The squall started with Bank One, which late yesterday issued a 1999 earnings warning. Bank One got the old one-two punch itself, knocking its shares down 22.7%.

"Bank One caused a lot of turmoil in financial stocks, especially J.P. Morgan and American Express," said Gary Kaltbaum, chief technical analyst at

J.W. Genesis Securities

in Boca Raton, Fla. "Take those out and you're probably flat on the Dow."

The bond market was showing some mettle, with the benchmark 30-year Treasury up 30/32 to 103 19/32, its yield at 5.87%. "The bond market is up nicely. A lot of traders have been taking their cues from that," said Dan Mathisson, head stock trader at

D.E. Shaw Securities

. "Stocks are just drifting, the broader indices have been dropping. There is only one sector that has clear direction," said Mathisson, referring to financials.

With little else to go on ahead of

GDP

and

initial jobless claims

figures tomorrow, Mathisson said he is keeping a close watch on financials to see how they hold up today, and one eye on Internet stocks, which have recently had considerable momentum.

Indeed, tech stocks were the only things managing to put a green shine on trading screens today.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

, up 4.2%, and

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

, up 3.8%, were among top gainers on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was up 7, or 0.3%, to 2760.

Meanwhile,

America Online

(AOL)

and

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

injected some fuel into

The Street.com Internet Sector

index, lately up 4, or 0.7%, to 568.

For the most part, it seems market observers are keeping their expectations in check, which is not the same thing as keeping them low. "It looks like the Fed has done their job and we're going to end up in a trading range for a while, with a bias to the upside for growth stocks" said Kaltbaum. "A lot of people are talking

Dow 12,000, and I think it's going to take some work for that to happen," said Kaltbaum. Still, I don't see any disasters and I think there is money to be made on the long side, he adds.

On the

New York Stock Exchange

decliners were beating advancers 1,568 to 1,263 on 466 million shares, while on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

decliners also outpaced advancers, 1,948 to 1,617, on 560 million shares. There were 39 new 52-week highs vs. 43 new lows on the Big Board, compared with 104 new highs and 37 new lows on the Nasdaq.

The

S&P 500

was off 4 to 1359, while the

Russell 2000

was down 1 1/2 to 437.

Wednesday's Midday Watchlist

By Tara Murphy
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified

.)

Bank One was plummeting 12 9/16, or 22.7%, to 43 1/16 after yesterday's postclose warning that it expects to report 1999 operating earnings of $3.60 to $3.65 a share, below the 25-analyst estimate of $3.92. Bank One blamed the shortfall on reduced growth and margin prospects at its credit card unit,

First USA

.

PaineWebber

,

Warburg Dillon Read

and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

all downgraded the stock.

Credit Suisse First Boston

put a sell recommendation on the stock.

U.K. telecom operator stocks were gaining ground today, spending a little while in the top five slots in the

FTSE 100

top-10 gainers chart. According to analysts quoted by

Reuters

, the sector, which has underperformed the FTSE 100 index by 10% this month, was reacting to the Fed's decision to raise U.S. interest rates, removing doubt from skeptical investors who thought its decision could go either way.

Williams de Broe

analyst Nigel Hawkins added, "Telecom stocks tend to be a bit more closely correlated with the overall performance of the market." Although the explanation makes sense, investors' top picks seemed rather unusual, swaying to data transmission telecom operators instead of the traditional telecom voice service providers.

Colt Telecommunications

(COLT)

was jumping 3 1/4 to 84 3/16, while

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

was leaping 5 1/16 to 196 1/16.

British Telecommunications

(BTY)

was soaring 7 3/4, or 5.3%, to 158 1/2 and

TeleWest Communications

(TWSTY)

was popping 1 to 40 5/8.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Borg Warner Automotive

(BWA) - Get Report

was off 3/16 to 48 1/2 after it said it inked a deal with a group of investors, including management to sell its

Coleman Cable

division for estimated $144 million less debt of about $4 million. Borg Warner bought the utility wire and cable subsidiary in March 1999, along with its acquisition of

Kulman

. Borg Warner said, at the time of the purchase, that Kulman's cable and wireless and electronic transformer businesses were not in line with its strategic plans and would be sold.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Fleetwood

(FLE)

was up 1 11/16, or 7.8% to 23 1/4 after it posted first-quarter earnings of 72 cents a share, 6 cents ahead of the five-analyst estimate, but down from the year-ago 86 cents. Fleetwood blamed the slump in earnings on a slowdown in manufactured housing sales and the effect of eliminating intercompany profits on retail inventory.

Fluor

(FLR) - Get Report

was off 1/2 to 41 5/16 after it posted third-quarter earnings of 66 cents a share, a penny shy of the seven-analyst estimate and down from the year-ago 81 cents.

Take-Two Interactive Software

(TTWO) - Get Report

was unchanged at 9 5/8 after it posted third-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, 3 cents ahead of the three-analyst estimate.

Toro

(TTC) - Get Report

was down 7/16 to 36 13/16 after it posted third-quarter earnings of 78 cents a share, 2 cents ahead of the one-analyst estimate of 76 cents. The company said today that it would shut down its Murray Bridge, Australia facility in its fourth quarter, assuming a restructuring charge of $900,000.

Analyst actions

Amgen

(AMGN) - Get Report

was down 1 1/16 to 79 13/16, while

Biogen

(BGEN)

shares were off 1 5/8 to 77 1/16 after

Merrill Lynch

downgraded a host of biotech stocks,

CNBC

reported.

Genzyme General

(GENZ)

,

Idec Pharmaceuticals

(IDPH)

and

MedImmune

(MEDI)

were also included in the firm's rating cut. Shares of Genzyme General were falling 4 11/16, or 7.5%, to 57 9/16, while Idec was slipping 5 9/16 to 129 3/8. Medimune shares were tumbling 10 3/16, or 8.5%, to 109 5/8.

AutoZone

(AZO) - Get Report

was unchanged at 24 1/16 after Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the shares to accumulate from buy.

Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Michael Mayo put a sell recommendation on

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

and

Chase Manhattan

(CMB)

Shares of Citigroup were off 1 11/16 to 47 1/4, while Chase was off 2 5/8 to 83 15/16.

Freemont General

(FMT)

was stumbling 7 1/2, or 44.6% to 9 1/4 after

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst Charles Gates cut his rating on the stock to a hold from a buy and reduced 1999 earnings estimates to 95 cents from $2 and $1.50 from $2.30 for the year 2000. Merrill Lynch also downgraded the shares to a near-term neutral from a buy.

Liberate Technologies

(LBRT) - Get Report

was up 1/8 to 20 after Credit Suisse First Boston rolled out coverage on the shares with a buy rating.

Office Depot

(ODP) - Get Report

was off 1/16 to 14 7/16 after Merrill Lynch lowered its rating to accumulate from buy.

O'Reilly Automotive

(ORLY) - Get Report

was down 2 1/14, or 5.5%, to 37 5/16 after Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to accumulate from buy.

Merrill Lynch retail analysts took a hammer to their sector today, cutting its ratings on nine stocks.

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

,

Dayton Hudson

(DH)

,

Kohl's

(KSS) - Get Report

,

Kmart

(KM)

,

Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Report

,

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

,

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

,

Borders

(BGP)

and

Sears

(S) - Get Report

were all included in the ratings cut.

Shares of Barnes & Noble were down 9/16 to 25 1/8, while Dayton Hudson was falling 3 3/4, or 5.7%, to 61 9/16. Kohl's shares were off 1 11/16 to 75 7/16 and Kmart was down 7/16 to 13 9/16, while Nordstrom shares were off 1/16 to 31 7/16. Shares of J.C. Penney were slipping 15/16 to 40 5/8 and Wal-Mart was declined 1 5/16 to 46 5/16. Sears was sliding 7/8 to 40, while Borders was off 11/16 to 13 5/16.

Talisman Energy

(TLM)

was up 5/16 to 30 1/8 after Morgan Stanley initiated coverage of the stock with a strong buy rating and a price target of 60.

Tech Data

(TECD) - Get Report

was hopping 4 1/4, or 13%, to 37 after

Banc of America Securities

raised its rating on the stock to strong buy from buy.

Teradyne

(TER) - Get Report

was stumbling 1 5/8 to 70 1/16 after Lehman Brothers upped its 1999 earnings estimate to $2.05 a share from $2.

Time Warner

(TWX)

was off 1/16 to 61 9/16 despite

ING Barings

raising the shares rating to a strong buy from a buy and set a 2000 price target of 85, reacting to the stock's 7% decline on Tuesday. Yesterday, Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen sliced her estimates on Time Warner, based on declining U.S. market share for its music business, ongoing

WB Television

network losses and weakness in international markets. ING Barings said the stock overacted to the news.

Miscellany

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

was down 1 1/8 to 44 after a negotiator representing the company's largest union predicted the union would strike on Sept. 2.

Compaq

(CPQ)

was up 1/16 to 23 9/16 after it announced price cuts of up to 11% on most of its

Deskpro

commercial desktop PCs.

Cordant Technologies

(CDD)

, an aerospace components maker, was up 7/8 to 42 3/4 after it said its

Thiokol Propulsion

division signed a follow-on rocket motors contract with

NASA

worth more than $1.7 billion.

Delco Remy International

(RMY)

was up 10 1/8 after it announced that president and COO Thomas Synder would become the company's CEO on Jan. 1, 2000.

MarketXT

, formerly Eclipse Trading, said it will begin offering postclose trading hours today, joining other brokerages that are providing similar services to retail investors. MarketXT said that investors will be able to trade 400 widely held stocks, the 200 largest on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq, Monday through Thursday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. EDT.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's

(MWD)

Discover Brokerage

and

Mellon Bank's

(MEL)

Dreyfus Brokerage Services

are among the participating firms. Morgan Stanley was down 1 3/16 to 95 1/8 and Mellon was down 7/16 to 35 5/16.

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

was off 3/8 to 29 7/16 after it said its Internet unit has taken a controlling stake in online educational toy retailer

toysmart.com

. Separately, Disney's marriage of its TV production studio and its

ABC

television network -- which was announced last month -- is proving difficult to pull off,

The Wall Street Journal

reported.

Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Report

was down 1/16 to 31 7/16 after late yesterday unveiling plans to establish a separate

Nordstrom.com

division to concentrate on Internet sales, and said it might offer shares in the unit in the future.

As originally published, this story contained an error. Please see

Corrections and Clarifications.