There'll be no presents from the
this Christmas, but investors still seem content with the gifts given in September, October and November.
As was nearly unanimously expected, the Fed's rate-setting body left rates unchanged at its meeting today. Still, strength in consumer-focused names counteracted a sub-par performance in technology to help blue-chip proxies close with modest gains. Traders said the coming holiday helped keep volatility under wraps but the session was busier than many anticipated.
Bucking the trend in technology,
jumped 3.6% to a new all-time high of 182 3/4 and was the biggest positive influence on the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
. The blue-chip proxy overcame an early decline to as low as 8948.68 before closing up 55.61, or 0.6%, at 9044.46. The close is the Dow's first above 9000 since Dec. 9.
In addition to IBM,
Procter & Gamble
aided the Dow.
Strength in drug makers and consumer-focused names also aided the
, which struggled to close up but managed to rise 0.73, or 0.1%, to a new all-time high of 1203.57. The
shed 1.59, or 0.4%, to 400.24.
Drug makers rebounded after lagging the market's big rally
yesterday, with notable rises enjoyed by
, up 4.6%, and
, which gained 2%. The
American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index
climbed 1.9% while the
Morgan Stanley Consumer Index
Nasdaq Composite Index
was the biggest loser on the session, falling 17.04, or 0.8%, to 2120.99 after its record-setting rise yesterday. Still, the index managed to climb off its intraday low of 2105.54.
Large-cap tech stocks, many of which soared to 52-week highs yesterday, stumbled today, as the
shed 1.1% and the
Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35
were the leading negative influences on the Nasdaq.
Internet names also struggled, with
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index falling 2.3%.
However, the Internet craze has clearly not been eradicated.
jumped 61.9% after the online broker forecast its fiscal first-quarter earnings will be higher than expected. Additionally,
soared 142% after reaching an agreement with
to provide discounts to
users at iMall's online shopping services.
rose 4.9% to another new all-time high of 122 3/4 after
reiterated its strong buy recommendation.
endured a wild trading day that saw it open at 329, fall as low 308 5/8, rise back above 323, and then fall to 310 late in the session only to reverse again and close up 1.7% at a new all-time high of 322 3/8.
Not So Sleepy
"It was quiet for a while and then we got some good order flow," said Jay Meagrow, vice president of trading at
in Cleveland. "People were taking some bigger shots yesterday but the volume today doesn't vary much. A lot of the consumers and bigger names like
examined post-Thanksgiving strength among online brokers, aided by overall Internet interest.
zoomed up 49 3/4, or 58.7%, to an all-time high of 134 1/2 and
garnered 11 1/16, or 33.2%, to 46 59/64 for apparently no other reason than investors wanted the stocks to catch up to their Internet peers.
Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
scored 4 11/16, or 13.8%, to an all-time high of 38 7/8 after signing a marketing agreement with
, securing the company as the exclusive provider of downloadable software products on Kmart's Web site. Terms weren't disclosed. Kmart slipped 1/4 to 13 151/16.
Earnings/revenue reports and previews
skidded 2 11/16, or 47.8%, to an all-time low of 2 31/32 after warning it expects to post fourth-quarter earnings of 5 cents to 7 cents a share because of a decline in permanent placement revenue. The four-analyst view called for earnings of 15 cents vs. the year-ago loss of 4 cents.
shot up 2 15/16, or 8.4%, to 38 on word its iMac computer was the top-selling PC in November at both U.S. computer retail stores and through the mail, according to
, a market research firm. Last month the iMac accounted for 7.1% of all computer unit sales and 8.2% of total U.S. computer retail revenue.
Atlantic Data Services
stumbled 5 1/4, or 41.2%, to an all-time low of 7 1/2 after one of the company's major customers -- which accounted for 21.6% of Atlantic Data's revenue -- said it won't extend its contract beyond the end of the year.
BT Alex. Brown
slashed the stock to market perform from buy.
shed 3/4, or 8.4%, to 8 3/16 after last night posting a third-quarter operating loss of 12 cents a share, 2 cents wider that the 16-analyst forecast and behind the year-ago profit of 12 cents.
sliced off 15/16, or 10.4%, to 8 1/16 after last night announcing a fourth-quarter loss of 29 cents a share, missing both the six-analyst prediction for a profit of 19 cents and the year-ago profit of 24 cents. The company named Christopher Sinclair president and chief executive.
slipped 5/8 to 19 13/16 after last night saying it will take a restructuring charge of $130 million to $135 million in the fourth quarter because of facility closures and a previously announced restructuring.
declined 1 1/8, or 11.5%, to 8 11/16 after last night saying it expects to post a fourth-quarter loss of 4 cents a share because of manufacturing problems which have been corrected. The nine-analyst forecast called for a profit of 4 cents compared with the year-ago break-even quarter.
lost 4 3/8, or 24.5%, to an annual low of 13 3/4 after last night warning it expects to post second-quarter earnings of 30 cents to 35 cents a share because of higher operating costs and lower sales. The single-analyst forecast called for 55 cents vs. the year-ago 45 cents.
gave up 2 1/4, or 5.3%, to 40 3/16 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 58 cents a share, 2 cents shy of the 11-analyst view but ahead of the year-earlier 50 cents.
fell 7/8, or 10.3%, to 7 5/8 after last night saying it expects to report fourth-quarter results "significantly" below the year-ago 37 cents a share and below current estimates because of fluctuations in the price of copper and the impact of price competition for its copper wire products. The three-analyst view called for 22 cents.
tumbled 2 7/16, or 8.5%, to 26 3/16 after last night saying it's comfortable with the lower end of analysts 1999 earnings estimates. The nine-analyst view calls for $2.49 a share in 1999 and $2.68 in 1998.
, majority-owned by
, slid 3 7/16, or 16%, to 18 1/16 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, 1 cent above the 13-analyst estimate and higher than the year-ago penny.
tanked 5 3/4, or 56.8%, to an all-time low of 4 13/32 after last night warning it sees fourth-quarter and full-year net earnings falling below estimates because of a charge and a slowdown of operations in its Houston and Arkansas markets. Before the charge, the company expects quarter earnings of 6 cents to 12 cents a share. The 15-analyst outlook called for 18 cents vs. the year-ago 9 cents. For the year, analysts called for 58 cents compared with the year-ago 26 cents.
plunged 3, or 27.1%, to an annual low of 8 3/32 after last night saying it sees 1999 earnings falling behind expectations due to heavy price discounting in the cranberry juice market. The five-analyst view called for annual earnings of 74 cents a share vs. the year-earlier 19 cents.
shot up 4 11/16, or 23.8%, to 24 3/8 after this morning posting third-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share, blowing away the three-analyst forecast for 14 cents and falling behind the year-ago 56 cents.
Silicon Valley Bancshares
decreased 6 7/8, or 28.1%, to 17 3/4 after warning it sees fourth-quarter income of 20 cents to 25 cents a share because of an increase in loan loss provisions to $20 million from $26 million. The nine-analyst outlook called for 42 cents vs. the year-ago 72 cents.
Smart & Final
lowered 1 5/16, or 13.6%, to 8 5/16 after last night saying it expects fourth-quarter earnings to fall below forecasts because of unsatisfactory operating results from its food service distribution division, interest expense and restructuring costs. The three-analyst view called for earnings of 17 cents a share vs. the year-ago loss of 31 cents.
United Auto Group
shaved off 3/8 to 9 11/16 after saying its sees 1998 earnings meeting the six-analyst prediction for $1.11 a share. The company also said it will take a charge of $13 million to $15 million in the fourth quarter.
Offerings and stock actions
added 3/8 to 15 3/4 after approving a 5 million-share repurchase plan.
Ocwen Asset Investment
gave up 1 7/16, or 25.6%, to 4 3/16 after its board ended the company's status as a real estate investment trust to become a taxable C corporation. The board also decided to delay payment of the 1998 dividend until 1999, saying it cannot assure it will pay it.
took in 2 15/16, or 13.2%, to 25 3/16 after agreeing to sell $300 million of preferred stock, convertible into 12 million common shares at $25 each, to
rose 1 to 57 3/8 after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
upped it to outperform from neutral with a price target of 69 a share.
soared 4 9/16, or 26.4%, to 21 7/8 after BT Alex. Brown raised it to buy from market perform.
brought in 2, or 6.8%, to an annual high of 31 1/4 after
initiated coverage with an attractive.
Paul Harris Stores
dropped 1 5/16, or 15.2%, to 7 5/16 after
Hambrecht & Quist
, citing disappointing sales trends, lowered the stock to buy from strong buy and decreased its 12-month price target to 15 from 19 a share.
powered up 2 7/8, or 9.8%, to 32 3/8 after BT Alex. Brown started coverage with a buy.
Mobil North Sea
, a division of
, has canceled a drilling contract with
Houston-based R&B Falcon said in a press release late yesterday that Mobil was terminating the drilling contract on its fourth-generation semisubmersible rig Jack Bates due to "certain performance breaches relating to equipment and personnel deficiencies." Falcon said it intends to take a legal route to enforce its rights under the contract.
The Jack Bates floating rig, capable of drilling in water depths of 5,400 feet, was drilling for Mobil in the North Sea at a daily rental rate of $160,000. Under the terms of the contract, that rate would go to $196,000 in early 1999 and to $206,000 a day in early 2000. The contract was set to expire in late 2001, with Mobil having the option to extend it for two one-year terms.
Falcon officials did not return calls seeking comment. A Mobil spokesman reached in Virginia had no knowledge of the issue and referred calls to Mobil's U.K. office. A call to Mobil's London spokesman was not returned.
The contract termination has led to speculation that Mobil is simply trying to renegotiate its contract at closer to present rental rates in this drilling area, hit hard by the drop in oil prices. Daily rental rates on new contracts for rigs similar to the Jack Bates are in the $140,000 range -- and falling -- substantially below the rates negotiated by Falcon and Mobil.
Falcon sank 5/8, or 8.1%, to an annual low of 7 1/8; Mobil slid 1 to 88 15/16.
took in 1 3/4 to an all-time high of 78 3/4 on
last night's news that it will replace
in the S&P 500 after the closing bell Dec. 30. Pennzoil plans to spin off its
group, which will then merge with
. The merged company will be added to the
S&P MidCap 400
. The surviving company,
, will not be added to any S&P index. Pennzoil slouched 1 3/4, or 5.2%, to 31 3/4.
, which climbed 3/4 to 45 5/8, will replace Quaker State in the MidCap index.