Monday's Market: Nasdaq Closes Above 3000; Dow Posts Staid Gains - TheStreet

Breathless intrigue. Gripping suspense. And high-stakes drama.

No, not the plotline to the forthcoming flick

Dude, Where's My Car?

. We're talking

Dude, Who's My President-Elect?

Florida's

Supreme Court

spent Friday afternoon riling up George W. Bush's camp by ruling the recount would continue. And when it did, some had the Bush lead down to a slim 150-and-change margin on over 6 million votes cast. This came as a slap to Bush, whose been posing victoriously for the past week or so, working on his transition. Al Gore's camp, which has spent much of the last month bickering and whining in courtrooms, was understandably elated at the news.

That is, until the

United States Supreme Court

intervened, halting the recount until it heard the appeal from the Bush camp. And starting today, at 11 a.m. ET, the high court heard 45-minutes' worth of argument from each side. Pundits and other media charlatans have the court deadlocked over the matter. And as usual, markets just keep on trading, hoping that somehow, some way, this messy election will be cleanly decided.

Usually, markets don't like uncertainty. But today, both the Comp and the

Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher.

What's the deal with that?

Alan Greenspan's love letter to investors shored up this market. On Dec. 5, the

Federal Reserve Chairman

made comments that indicated he was aware that the American economy was indeed slowing and made small noises that the

Federal Open Market Committee

would consider changing its bias to neutral in its Dec. 19 meeting. That means an end to the six straight rate hikes, taking the pressure off interest rates and keeping the foot off the economic brake for a while.

And in the wake of this new happiness, analysts have made bullish comments, inspiring investors to come out of hiding and join the buyers.

Merrill Lynch's

Christine Callies, formerly of

Credit Suisse First Boston

, and

UBS Warburg's

Ed Kerschner both released notes this morning, telling investors that the time was now. Simply put, both said the

S&P 500 was at its most attractive level in two years.

There you go. Right there. The S&P 500 made some gains today, despite slipping from session highs in the final hour of trading. It outpaced the more staid

Dow Jones Industrial Average, which felt the pressure from the grudge match showdown between

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

and the retailers. Much like the benchmark S&P, the Dow also crumbled in late-day trading.

And with the Nasdaq much higher, a lot of the money buying tech had to come from somewhere. Like

ExxonMobil

(XOM) - Get Report

, slumping after Iraq agreed to sell more oil in the open market, thereby increasing the once-tight, and therefore more profitable, supply side of the oil equation.

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

also suffered after

Coca-Cola Enterprises

(CCE)

, the world's largest Coke bottler, warned about future profits on Friday.

Morgan, already rising in the wake of Greenspan's apparent anti-hike stance, has been strong all day after some nice analyst comments, while fears of a Grinch-worthy Christmas dropped

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

and

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

.

Today,

Goldman Sachs

released a note on

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

, insinuating that the pair were undervalued and had taken a disproportionate share of the beat down. Yet another reason to rally.

Since the election, the brokers have been a wild bunch. A heavy post-election slump saw the index fall throughout the month of November as money poured out of the market. But this December, the story has been a far different one. Investors are sweeping into the sector as the interest-rate picture has improved, driving the index up about 19% since its close on Nov. 30.

But the retailers, which have tracked higher in December for the last two years, were lower as fears abound that this Christmas could be a coal-filled one. Many are pointing to the bulging sales racks and seeing red, since the price slashes, great for mall crawlers, are terrible for the bottom line. The usual profit margins are trimmed and the companies don't make as much money, even as sales appear to increase.

And after

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

and

Land's End

(LE) - Get Report

both said that weaker-than-expected sales would be forthcoming, investors bailed out of retail.

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst Richard Baum also slashed his ratings on a bunch of retailers. Yikes.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

were also much higher as buyers return to technology's chalk outline, and lift the battered sector. But the rising tide didn't lift all ships. In fact, it only served to highlight the 12.5% stumble in

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

, which was the most actively-traded issue on the Nasdaq.

Semiconductors were especially good, with the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

gaining 7%. Biotechs, disk drive peripherals, large-cap tech and even dot-coms were also much higher.

Market Internals

Look, this ain't exactly record-breaking volume here. It's moderate, though, with winners topping losers. That's far better than the anemic-volume and loser-dominated markets of the past month.

New York Stock Exchange: 1671 advancers, 1180 decliners, 1.2 billion shares. 223 new 52-week highs, 49 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 2312 advancers, 1674 decliners, 2.4 billion shares. 93 new highs, 161 new lows.

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Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

  • Lucent (LU) : 33.1 million shares.
  • Nortel (NT) : 23.7 million shares.
  • Motorola (MOT) : 21.8 million shares.

Nasdaq Most Actives

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Sector Watch

Bankers, recovering in the wake of that disastrous

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

warning and amid fears that the entire industry is teetering on a mountain of poor-quality debt, have also bounced back, rallying for the third-straight day. The

American Stock Exchange Securities Broker/Dealer Index

, which tracks the sector, rose 4.1%.

It's getting cold out. Real cold. And that means that natural gas prices are gonna go up and that means more profits for the companies that provide natural gas or aid in the exploration of its. At last check, natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 9.7%, to 9.41, yet another day of gains. As a result, a direct result, the

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

was up 2.8%.

Meanwhile the drillers in the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

were up 5% as an indirect result of the higher gas prices. You see, natural gas is a byproduct of drilling for crude and as the drillers look for oil, they sometimes strike gas, also a valuable commodity.

Safe-play chemical and gold stocks were lower.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasuries are giving back the gains they made late in the day on Friday, reflecting the shift that occurred over the weekend in the presidential contest.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down 15/32 at 102 28/32, lifting its yield to 5.362%.

Treasuries rallied on Friday afternoon after the Florida Supreme Court ordered recounts in Florida, a development with the potential to benefit Democratic candidate

Al Gore

. The bond rally was based on the prospect of continued stock market declines while the outcome of the election remains in doubt, and on the belief that Gore would do more than Republican candidate

George W. Bush

to reduce the supply of Treasury securities by using federal government surpluses to pay down the national debt.

The Treasury market is giving back those gains after the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday ordered the recounts halted, a development that favors Bush.

A rally in the stock market is also sapping demand for bonds. No major economic news is slated before Wednesday, which brings the November

retail sales

(

definition |

chart |

source

) report.

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International

European markets were bouncing today on strength in telecom, tech and financials.

London's

FTSE

closed up 88.9 to 6780.15. Across the channel, Paris'

CAC-40

charged ahead to end up 138.56 to 6077.88, while Germany's

Xetra Dax

gained 93.04 to 6784.29.

The euro was slipping this morning after hitting an 11-week high last week. It was lately trading down to $0.8789. It has been gaining in the past few weeks as the U.S. dollar weakens in the face of a slowing domestic economy.

Asian markets galloped ahead overnight following the Nasdaq's rally on Friday. In Japan, the

Nikkei 225

closed up 319.19 to 15015.70.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

closed up 219.21 to 15,408.54.

The greenback was lower to 111.80 yen.

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