SAN FRANCISCO -- You say tomato, I say to-MAH-toe. You say potato, I (and
) say po-TAH-toe.
There were (at least) two ways to interpret the
today, and stock and bond traders used them both.
On the bullish hand, the
reported nonfarm payrolls rose just 11,000 in May, far below the 216,000 expected. On the bearish hand, the unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, below the 4.3% expectation, and average hourly earnings rose by 0.4%, above the 0.3% target. As is often the case, equity traders chose to accentuate the positive, showering particular favor on tech and drug stocks, while bond traders took a more dour view.
"People were looking for disaster and it didn't happen," Scott Bleier, chief investment strategist at
, said of the jobs data. "Wednesday morning
stocks started to go up quietly and they have not stopped. This morning, a downtrend dating back from mid-May was broken. That forced shorts to cover and that in turn forced some institutions waiting for weakness to step in and buy. There's not a whole helluva lot of volume but this is a damned good day, and we haven't had one in seemingly since mid-May."
Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 136.15, or 1.3%, to 10,799.84 while the
gained 28.21, or 2.2%, to 1327.75. The
Nasdaq Composite Index
rose 75.02, or 3.1%, to 2478.34 while
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index gained 19.16, or 3.6%, to 553.46.
The majority of traditional tech bellwethers rose, led by chip and equipment makers such as
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
rose 5.7%, outpacing the solid 3.9% rise for the
led Net favorites, surging 11.6% after a federal judge in Portland denied
ability to deny other ISPs access to its cable lines. Ma Bell fell 1.6% while its partially owned
"It's an excuse," Bleier said of the ruling and AOL's rise, noting AT&T will appeal but ultimately will have to let others use their lines. "This was an opportune time.
Internet stocks were groping for a bottom. Needless to say, they're below where they were, but it looks like much of the selling is done for now. The fact is they looked like they've put in a decent bottom."
Among secondary Net names,
gained 26.9% upon receiving a $120 million contract from the
Internal Revenue Service
climbed 13.8% after
Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette
reiterated the ISP as its top pick.
Among new Net offerings, venture capital firm
(WITC:Nasdaq) rose 64.6% and
High Speed Access
(HSAC:Nasdaq) rose 56.7% from respective IPO levels, but
Network Access Solutions
(NASC:Nasdaq) rose just 1/16 from its IPO price of 12.
Beyond tech, pharmaceuticals and medical device-makers were the session's big winners.
Among big pharmas,
rose 6.4% ahead of a 3-for-1 stock split and
gained 4.6% after adding $500 million to an existing stock buyback plan. The
American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index
surged 31.4% after a
Federal Trade Commission
judge dismissed a government antitrust case against the company. Separately, the maker of vision-correction lasers was tapped to join the Nasdaq 100 as of June 10.
New York Stock Exchange
trading, 696.4 million shares were traded while advancers led declining issues 1,823 to 1,097. In
Nasdaq Stock Market
activity, 890.1 million shares were exchanged while gainers led 2,240 to 1,686. New 52-week highs led news lows 65 to 46 in NYSE trading and by 86 to 46 over-the-counter trading.
For one day (at least), traders ignored news the Chinese will tighten controls over foreign trading in the yuan. The Chinese deny a devaluation is in the offing, but tighter controls could portend such a move.
"It's not in the
stock market's consciousness but a lot of pros in the business -- the people who trade currencies -- know it's a foregone conclusion China has to devalue," Bleier said. "If it happened now, the market is a load better than the fourth quarter of last year."
In a "worst-case scenario," the Dow could pull back to the mid-9000s and "maybe a devaluation by China will be a reason to take us there," the strategist said. "But near-term, we've put in a bottom. This is a day the downtrend in the S&P was broken at about 1307. Until we get a better picture of what the Fed may do and of earnings preannouncements, it appears we have found a bottom near-term."
Cautious Optimism From Held
Underscoring the positive bent of trading today, Mitchell Held, managing director in economic research at
Salomon Smith Barney
, upped his earnings estimates on the S&P 500 to $47.75 from $46.50 for 1999 and to $49.50 from $47.90 for 2000.
"While we expect wages and salaries to ultimately resume their upward path, our new forecast also assumes a stronger outlook for productivity growth and somewhat weaker unit labor costs than we had previously projected," Mitchell wrote in a research report.
Today's report "kept things pretty much as they are," the economist said when asked how that jibes with the jobs data. "What's been interesting, almost inexplicable, is the deceleration of wage gains in the last year. This morning hinted at least the deceleration has stopped. It's maybe the first indication we might be getting some
increase but that's pushing it."
If labor costs are rising, it would be "prudent" for the Fed to take "cautionary steps" and will tighten if
data next Friday prove strong and
on June 16 are "not mushy," Held predicted.
Despite the prospect of a Fed tightening, Held raised his earnings estimates because "growth is proving stronger than we expected" although S&P 500 earnings will still "significantly" trail the 15% annualized earnings growth produced from 1992 to 1997.
Among other indices, the
rose 6.35, or 1.5%, to 442.33; the
Dow Jones Transportation Average
rose 41.77, or 1.2%, to 3462.73; the
Dow Utility Average
gained 4.25, or 1.3%, to 330.72; and the
American Stock Exchange Composite Index
climbed 5.04, or 0.7%, to 780.98.
For the holiday-shortened week, the Dow industrials rose 240.10, or 2.3%; the S&P 500 gained 25.91, or 2%; the Comp edged up 7.82, or 0.3%; the Russell 2000 added 3.65, or 0.8%; but the DOT fell 27.18, or 4.7%. Additionally, the Dow transports rose 47.03, or 1.4%,; the Dow utilities added 1.52, or 0.5%; and the Amex Composite rose 2.24, or 0.3%.
The price of the 30-year Treasury bond fell 9/32 to 90 3/32, its yield rising to 5.97%.
Elsewhere in North American equities today, the
Toronto Stock Exchange 300
rose 53.09, or 0.8%, to 6940.14 and the
Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index
added 7.64, or 0.1%, to 5371.26. For the week, the TSE 300 climbed 137.44, or 2% and the IPC slid 52.31, or 1%.
Friday's Company Report
Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.
Wit Capital soared 5 13/16, or 64.6%, to 14 7/8 after
priced its 7.6 million-share IPO top-range at $9 a share last night. (
wrote about the Internet investment banking and brokerage firm's offering this morning.)
Elsewhere in new issues:
- High Speed Access jumped 7 3/8, or 56.7%, to 20 3/8 after
Lehman Brothers priced its 13-million-share IPO top-range at $13 a share. High Speed Access provides Internet access via cable modem.
Network Access Solutions picked up 1/16 to 12 1/16 at after
Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette priced its 7.5-million-share IPO below-range at $12. The price range for the data communications company's offering was $14 to $16.
Online Resources & Communications (ORCC:Nasdaq), an e-commerce software firm, also added 1/16 after
J.P. Morgan priced its 3.1 million-share IPO top-range at $14 a share.
As noted above, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that AT&T cannot exclude competing Internet Service Providers from its cable systems -- upholding the right of cable regulators in Portland and the surrounding Multnomah County to condition their approval of the merger between AT&T and the former
on an open-access requirement. Telephone lost 7/8 to 53 3/8. AOL benefited, rising 12 1/4, or 11.6%, to 118.
shot up 13 11/16, or 21%, to 79 5/16 and
shot up 7 7/8, or 15.5%, to 59. By contrast, @Home tumbled 10 3/4, or 10.2%, to 94 1/2.
Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
starred in the role of Friday's rumored takeover target and popped up 9 1/8, or 9.5%, to an all-time high of 105.
said a possible acquirer is
, which lowered 2 to 58 3/8.
Earnings/revenue reports and previews
skidded 2 5/16, or 6.4%, to 35 1/8 after late yesterday reporting second-quarter operating earnings of 28 cents a share, missing the single-analyst estimate for 32 cents but moving ahead of the year-ago 16 cents. Today, the company filed for a 2.4 million-share offering. That stock represents
33% interest in AEP.
Beyond.com climbed 4 11/16, or 26.9%, to 22 1/4 after
Credit Suisse First Boston
said it estimates the company will lose $3.88 a share in 1999, better than its previous estimate of a loss of $3.90. For fiscal 2000, the firm expects the company to lose $1.54, narrower than a previous estimate for a $1.61 loss.
sank 4 3/16, or 27.8%, to an all-time low of 10 15/16 after saying its merger with
would dilute earnings in the final three quarters of fiscal 1999 by about 8 cents a share and that current business trends would lower earnings by an additional 2 cents.
slashed the stock to neutral from buy.
vaulted 3 1/2, or 12.4%, to an all-time high of 31 11/16 after last night saying its May same-store sales jumped 15.3%.
hopped up 2 1/4, or 7.9%, to 30 3/4 after last night posting first-quarter earnings of 18 cents a share, 3 cents above the 11-analyst estimate and a repeat of the year-ago figure.
Nu Skin Enterprises
slipped 1/16 to 17 13/16 after warning that "unanticipated delays in significant marketing initiatives in Japan" will likely lead to softer-than-anticipated second-quarter earnings, up to 10% lower than the current two-analyst estimate for 35 cents a share. The company also said a pending public offering of shares by existing stockholders was postponed.
declined 5/8 to 19 after last night saying it sees first-quarter earnings of 5 cents to 15 cents a share, citing aggressive pricing in the desktop hard-drive market. The 11-analyst forecast called for 31 cents vs. the year-ago 2 cents. The company also sees first-quarter revenue coming in below the fourth quarter's. Today,
cut its first-quarter earnings estimate to 10 cents from 32 cents.
gave up 1 7/8 to 72 7/8, off a high of 78 1/2, despite posting fourth-quarter earnings of 97 cents a share, blowing past the 13-analyst estimate of 90 cents and the year-ago 52 cents. The clothing retailer also set a 2-for-1 stock split.
Offerings and stock actions
Eli Lilly tacked on 3 5/16 to 75 1/4 after announcing a repurchase of up to $500 million in its stock, adding to a $1 billion program from January. Lilly also said it expected earnings growth to slow immediately after generic competition emerges in 2004 for
slid 2 9/16, or 10.1%, to 23 after completing a secondary offering of 3 million shares at 22 apiece.
Check Point Software Technologies
expanded 5 3/16, or 11.8%, to 49 after
raised it to buy from hold. Yesterday, the company told analysts it exceeded its own "internal business plan" by more than 20% during the first five months of 1999.
grew 8, or 6.8%, to an all-time high of 126 after
set a year 2000 price target for the stock at 150.
rose 1 3/4 to 65 3/8 after DLJ started coverage with a buy.
flew 3 3/16, or 6.9%, to 49 3/8 after DLJ pushed up the stock to top pick from buy.
T. Rowe Price Associates
slouched 1 1/8 to 36 27/32 after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
dropped it to neutral from outperform.
excelled 2 1/4, or 5.9%, to 40 11/16 after Lehman Brothers raised it to buy from outperform, with a price target of 50.
, which faces threats of legal action from
The New York Times
, advanced 3 3/8 to 108 7/16 after asking a federal court in Seattle to allow it to continue advertising and selling
New York Times
bestsellers at a 50% discount. A week after the online bookseller began offering the discount,
, the flagship of
New York Times Co.
, sent Amazon a letter saying it was infringing on the newspaper's copyright and trademark by using the list. New York Times added 1 1/16 to 35.
increased 1/8 to 13 15/16 after naming Piyush Patel president, CEO and chairman. Patel has led the company's research and development team as senior vice president of worldwide engineering. He succeeds Craig R. Benson.
surged 2 13/16 to 89 3/4 despite news of a shareholder lawsuit charging the company with violating
Securities and Exchange Commission
laws by allegedly misleading investors when it denied plans to acquire
. Skytel added 5/8 to 21 3/8.
Procter & Gamble
rallied 3 1/8 to 96 5/8 after
The New York Times
said the company is expected next week to announce to cut thousands of jobs worldwide, close some underperforming plants and take a sizable charge in an effort to become more competitive.
Visx rocketed 17 3/16, or 31.4%, to an all-time high of 71 7/8 after saying a
Federal Trade Commission
judge dismissed an FTC complaint related to the company's laser vision correction patents. The federal agency alleged Visx and a doctor committed fraud by failing to tell the