Nasdaq Retreats Further From 4000 as Profits Are Locked In

The Dow is edging toward another record, but the Nasdaq has been unable to sustain its opening pop.
Author:
Publish date:

After a run-up at the open, stocks finally ran into some of that selling pressure that people have been talking about.

"It looks like investors are finally taking the opportunity to realize some of these gains they have," said Bill Allyn, head of block trading at

Jefferies

. But far more surprising than the settling in of a little profit-taking is how long it took to come. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

is up more than 45% from its October lows, and many on Wall Street were, quite rationally, expecting tech stocks to pull back and tread water a month ago.

But stocks -- or at least tech stocks -- have not been adhering to what Wall Street thinks of as rational. There's evidence individual investors are playing a greater part in this market than ever before.

Volume, for instance, has been huge on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

relative to the

New York Stock Exchange

. And despite the high Nasdaq volume, there aren't many block trades going off in four-letter names.

Implied volatility, a pretty good read of professional investor sentiment, shows a decline in bullishness over the last month. Typically, as sentiment drops, so does the market (when it troughs, it's supposed to be time to buy). Yet despite the turn in sentiment among the professional crowd, the big indices keep going higher.

Eventually, the market should pull back, or at least tread water, but that moment hasn't come yet despite today's selling, said

Weeden

strategist Steve Goldman.

"It's hard to get any sustainable declines this time of year," he said. "You have a lot of momentum and you have a lot of seasonal factors." Goldman reckons that in mid-January, as those year-end factors abate and investors start worrying about interest rates again, the market could get a little rockier.

In the middle of the lunch hour, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was a little deeper into record territory with a gain of 19 to 11,424, but none of the other major indices were flashing green.

The Nasdaq was down 65, or 1.6%, to 3905, beating a steady retreat after popping up to a new intraday high of 4001.90 on the open. The

S&P 500

was off 7, or 0.5%, to 1451, and the smallish-cap

Russell 2000

was down 3, or 0.6%, to 480.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was down 40, or 3.6%, to 1088. E-tailers were getting hit on reports that they didn't handle Christmas traffic well.

eToys

(ETYS)

, in particular, was taking lumps on a

Robertson Stephens

downgrade to long-term attractive from buy. It was lately off 13.9%.

Some secondary indices were faring better, with the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

up 2% and the

Dow Jones Utilities Average

up 1.1%.

In the near-silent bond market, the benchmark 30-year Treasury was up 12/32 to 95 20/32, its yield easing to 6.46%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early

Bond Focus.)

Like utilities, financials were strong with the good fixed-income underpinning. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was up 0.7% and the

American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

was up 1.5%.

Market Internals

Breadth was poor on healthy volume.

New York Stock Exchange:

1,294 advancers, 1,685 decliners, 394 million shares. 72 new 52-week highs, 227 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market:

1,527 advancers, 2,480 decliners, 659 million shares. 170 new highs, 105 new lows.

Monday's Midday Watchlist

By Tara Murphy
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call/Thomson Financial; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Dexter

(DEX) - Get Report

was falling 15/16 to 38 5/16 after said its board had turned down

International Specialty Products'

(ISP)

$45-a-share offer made on Dec.14. Dexter said that the bid was too low and not in shareholders' best interest. Shares of International Specialty Products were edging up 5/16 to 7 3/4.

Interneuron Pharmaceuticals

(IPIC)

was bouncing 2 3/4, or 61.3%, to 7 1/4 after it said it has licensed rights to its experimental panic disorder drug

Pagoclone

to

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

. The deal calls for Warner-Lambert to pay Interneuron $73.75 million up front and manage all further testing, production and marketing for the drug. Shares of Warner Lambert were climbing 1 to 86 1/8.

Spartech

(SEH)

was gaining 3 1/16, or 10.7%, to 31 7/16 after it said it has entered a $217.5 million deal to acquire all of the assets of

Uniroyal Technology

(UTCI)

unit

High Performance Plastics

. Shares of Uniroyal were tacking on 3 1/16, or 15.5%, to 22 13/16.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Lyondell Chemical

(LYO)

was adding 1/8 to 11 11/16 after it said income from

Equistar Chemicals

, in which it has a 41% interest, will be sliced by $39 million in the fourth quarter as a result of a $95 million pretax charge taken by Equistar.

Millennium Chemicals

(MCH)

and

Occidental Petroleum

(OXY) - Get Report

each have a 29.5% interest in Equistar. Shares of Millennium Chemicals were tacking on 5/16 to 18 7/8 and Occidental Petroleum was advancing 1/16 to 21 11/16.

Analyst actions

Robertson Stephens started coverage of

Digimarc

(DMRC) - Get Report

with a buy rating. Shares of Digimarc were unchanged at 51.

Robertson Stephens lowered its rating on eToys to long-term attractive from buy. Shares of eToys were down 4 1/4, or 13.9%, to 26 3/4.

Credit Suisse First Boston

initiated coverage of

Retek

(RETK)

with a strong buy rating. Shares of Retek were bouncing 18, or 32.8%, to 72 7/16.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

upped its rating on

Seagate

(SEG)

to outperform from neutral and set a price target of 57. Shares of Seagate were rising 1 11/16 to 48 3/8.

Goldman Sachs

sliced its fiscal 2000 earnings estimate for

Zions Bancorp

(ZION) - Get Report

to $3.28 a share from $3.43. Shares of Zions were sliding 6 1/2, or 9.7%, to 60 1/4.

Miscellany

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

Thursday began a legal challenge to the

Federal Communications Commission's

decision allowing

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

to offer long-distance phone service in New York. Shares of AT&T were losing 1 1/16 to 51 9/16, while Bell Atlantic was skidding 2 3/4 to 61 3/16.

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRKA)

was off 400 to 53600 after it said

Warren Buffett

donated 2,500 Class A shares to charity.

priceline.com

(PCLN)

is preparing to launch a Web site called

Perfect YardSale

, which will match up buyers and sellers of goods,

The Wall Street Journal

reported. Shares of priceline.com were lifting 3/8 to 55 1/2.

Prison Realty Trust's

(PZN) - Get Report

board said an investor group will purchase $315 million in securities and commit to purchase an additional $35 million in securities in a newly formed company that would be created via the merger of Prison Realty and the companies operating under the name

Corrections Corp. of America

Shares of Prison Realty were stumbling 9/16, or 9.7%, to 5 3/16.

TheStreet.com/NYTimes.com

joint newsroom covered the Prison Realty news in a

story today.