Monday: Stocks Ho-Hum Ahead of Humphrey-Hawkins

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Publish date:

By John J. Edwards III
Staff Reporter

The

Greenspan

Watch is back.

After spending what seems like ages off the world stage,

Federal Reserve

Chairman Alan Greenspan heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow and Wednesday for his semiannual

Humphrey-Hawkins

testimony, and Wall Street will have its stethoscopes pressed to the windows to catch the smallest of nuances in the Great Man's pronouncements. Anticipation of the Greenspan testimony led to a blah day in the markets, with only the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

showing meager signs of liveliness.

The Dow popped back above 7900 with a rise of 16.26 to 7906.72. Strength in such stocks as

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

and

AlliedSignal

(ALD)

countered weakness in

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

and

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

. Other indices slid, with the

S&P 500

down 2.36 to 912.94 and the tech-fat

Nasdaq Composite Index

down 11.76 to 1536.23.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

weighed down both indices, falling 4 11/16 to 135 15/16 on reactions to its CFO's comment that the stock price was too high in the previous quarter to justify buybacks.

"This market was really too predictable in that after a day like Friday you have a flight to safety," said Larry Rice, chief market strategist at

Josephthal Lyon & Ross

. "Breadth levels are at the worst levels of the day as the Dow comes back."

Volume was off compared with the rampage of last week (which was the

New York Stock Exchange's

busiest ever), and breadth was indeed harshly negative. On the Big Board, 1,910 decliners overwhelmed 950 advancers on volume of 463.7 million shares. On the Nasdaq, 2,427 decliners beat 1,902 advancers on 546.4 million shares.

Rice said he doesn't expect Greenspan to volunteer any more comments about the rationality of the market's exuberance, but traders will focus on any outlook the chairman offers on the economy's course through year-end. "I'm not saying that the bull market is over by any stretch, because you don't get a bull market ending with falling interest rates," Rice said. "But certainly at these valuations any negative comments on inflation will have negative repercussions."

Those falling interest rates didn't fall today, with bonds selling off moderately ahead of Humphrey-Hawkins. The yield on the bellwether 30-year Treasury bond rose to 6.54%. (For more on the economy and the credit markets, see today's

Key Numbers.)

Monday's market action

(all earnings estimates from

First Call

):

Signet Banking

(SBK)

soared 13 1/2, or 36.8%, to 50 3/16 after

First Union

(FTU)

agreed to buy it for $3.25 billion. First Union dipped 3 to 94 7/16. Other Virginia-area banks surged as investors wondered who would be next to make a deal, with

Crestar Financial

(CF) - Get Report

up 2 5/8 to an all-time high of 45 7/8,

First Virginia Banks

(FVB)

, up 2 1/16 to an all-time high of 64 3/16,

F&M National

(FMN) - Get Report

up 3/8 to 26 11/16 and

MainStreet BankGroup

(MSBC)

up 3/4 to 27 3/4.

TheStreet.com

examined the M&A activity in the Old Dominion in a story

today.

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

was down 3/4 to 103 3/4 ahead of its post-close earnings report. Grand Bleu reported second-quarter earnings of $1.46 per share, 4 cents better than the 18-analyst view and up from the year-ago $1.26.

Semiconductor maker

Zilog

(ZLG)

saved itself from what could have been a nasty fall by announcing it agreed to be acquired by private investment firm

Texas Pacific Group

for $25 per share, or about $527 million. Zilog gained 1 13/16 to 24 3/16 despite reporting second-quarter earnings of 23 cents per share, a penny worse than the six-analyst estimate and down from the year-ago 60 cents.

National TechTeam

(TEAM) - Get Report

was crushed 5 7/8, or 37.2%, to 10 after saying it expects to break even in the second quarter. The five-analyst estimate calls for a profit of 14 cents per share versus the year-ago 9 cents. TechTeam closed at 22 1/2 July 9 and hasn't had an up day since.

Rambus

(RMBS:Nasdaq) jumped 6 5/8 to 52 after signing a broad licensing deal with

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

, allowing Texan to use Rambus' high-bandwidth memory interface technology in several products. Texas Instruments fell 4 1/8 to 109 1/2.

Novellus

(NVLS)

ascended 1/2 to 94 3/4 after spending most of the session underwater. The company reported second-quarter earnings of $1.00 per share, a penny shy of the 18-analyst outlook and down from the year-ago $1.60.

Boeing dropped 1 11/16 to 54 3/8 after reporting second-quarter operating earnings of 55 cents per share, short of the 14-analyst estimate of 59 cents and down from the year-ago 68 cents.

McDonnell Douglas

(MD) - Get Report

, Boeing's pending merger partner, lost 2 15/16 to 68 1/8.

Kimberly-Clark

(KMB) - Get Report

slumped 4 3/8 to 47 1/4 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 60 cents per share, 2 cents lower than the 11-analyst outlook but up from the year-ago 56 cents.

Exxon

(XON) - Get Report

gushed up 7/8 to 61 5/16 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 79 cents per share, ahead of the 24-analyst expectation of 72 cents and the year-earlier 63 cents.

Union Carbide

(UK)

wafted up 1 3/4 to 52 after reporting second-quarter earnings of $1.28 per share, 3 cents better than the 16-analyst expectation and up from the year-earlier $1.12.

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

bounded 4 3/8 to 139 1/2 on positive news about prescription sales of its Lipitor cholesterol drug and a favorable report about its new diabetes drug, Rezulin. Merck, which makes a competing cholesterol drug, declined 1 3/4 to 104 5/8. Warner-Lambert releases its second-quarter earnings tomorrow, with the 26-analyst outlook calling for 81 cents per share versus the year-ago 79 cents.

Sprint

(FON)

moved into the computer network systems management business with an agreement to buy privately held

Paranet

for $425 million in cash. The company's shares gave up 9/16 to 45.

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

and

Nynex

(NYN)

both leapt after reaching an accord with the

Federal Communications Commission

regarding their pending $23.7 billion merger. The companies agreed to a set of conditions for opening their markets to competition. Bell Atlantic rose 1 3/8 to 71 1/2 and Nynex rose 1 7/16 to 54 3/16.

BellSouth

(BLS)

added 11/16 to 45 3/4 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 71 cents per share, a cent ahead of the 19-analyst view and up from the year-ago 63 cents.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

was unchanged at 34 3/8 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 59 cents per share, a penny better than the 24-analyst view but sharply down from the year-ago 94 cents.

Successful AT&T spinoff

Lucent Technologies

(LU)

bought an enterprisewide license for connectivity software from

Hummingbird Communications

(HUMCF)

. Terms were not disclosed. Lucent slid 2 3/8 to 81 7/8 and Hummingbird dropped 1 3/16 to 35 5/16.

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

moved up 3/4 to 35 3/4 after

J.P. Morgan Securities

upgraded the stock to long-term buy from market performer.

Tobacco-industry rebel Bennett LeBow, head of

Liggett

parent

Brooke Group

(BGL)

, offered damning testimony in a secondhand-smoke trial today. LeBow freely admitted that cigarettes cause cancer and are addictive, and he said industry colossus

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

paid some of struggling Liggett's legal fees in 1995 antitobacco litigation. Brooke rose 1/8 to 3 3/4, Big Mo lost 1/2 to 40 1/2,

RJR Nabisco

(RN)

lost 13/16 to 29 13/16,

Lorillard

parent

Loews

(LTR)

added 3/8 to 100 and the

American Stock Exchange Tobacco Index

inched down 1.85 to 297.66.

Lexmark International

(LXK)

hopped 2 1/8 to 29 1/4 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 45 cents per share, beating the five-analyst view of 42 cents and the year-ago 40 cents. Lexmark said it was "comfortable with the current range of analysts' estimates for full-year earnings per share," with First Call forecasting $1.98 versus $1.68 in 1996.

Employees at three units of

Wisconsin Central Transportation

(WCLX)

over the weekend exercised their right to unionize, driving the company's stock down 2 3/4 to 31 today. The employees designated the

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

and the

United Transportation Union

as their representatives.

Newly public

3Dfx

(TDFX:Nasdaq) declined 4 1/4 to a post-offering low of 12 after saying

Sega Enterprises

might not use a 3Dfx chip in its next-generation video game console. The industry newsletter

Microprocessor Report

reportedly said

NEC

(NIPNY)

increased 1/2 to 48 1/2 after agreeing to buy two privately held drugstore chains,

K&B Services

of New Orleans and

Harco

of Alabama.

Callaway Golf

(ELY) - Get Report

and

US Industries

(USI) - Get Report

both headed higher after Callaway agreed to buy

Odyssey Sports

from US Industries for $130 million. Callaway gained 3/4 to 36 7/8 and USI added 3/16 to 40 1/4.

Tyco International

(TYC)

improved 1 3/8 to 78 5/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 82 cents per share, better than the seven-analyst expectation of 75 cents and the year-ago 62 cents.

Sonat

(SNT)

lost 2 7/8 to 48 1/8 after an exploratory test at its part-owned well in Henderson County, Texas, failed to encounter a reef as expected. Sonat owns a 59% working interest in the well.

United Meridian

(UMC) - Get Report

, which owns 30%, gave up 11/16 to 31 1/16.

Energen

(EGN)

, which owns 9%, slipped 1/16 to 35 1/16. Privately held

MB Exploration

holds 2%.

PaineWebber

upgraded Sonat to buy from attractive, citing the weak stock price.

Unisys

(UIS) - Get Report

rose 9/16 to a two-year high of 8 3/4 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 8 cents per share, ahead of the seven-analyst estimate of 5 cents and the year-ago loss of 14 cents.

Stanley Works

(SWK) - Get Report

fell 11/16 to 43 3/4 after

NatWest Securities

cut the stock to hold from accumulate.

Recent new issue

Acorn Products

(ACRN:Nasdaq) fell 2 3/8 to a post-offering low of 11 3/4 despite an initiation at buy at

A.G. Edwards

, the lawn-and-garden-tool company's lead underwriter.