The tourists lined up near the corner of Wall and Broad have had an unexpected treat today: An unusually large herd of traders are sunning themselves on the curb outside the New York Stock Exchange. Though some expressed disappointment that feeding the traders is not allowed, most accept that any variation in the typical floor-broker diet of coffee and cigarettes and egg sandwiches from Champ's could have disastrous consequences for capital markets around the world.
These occasional lulls in the action are not unwelcome. With the
meeting over and first-quarter earnings still a while off, the market is getting a chance to digest recent gains. Stocks kept to a tight range through the first half of the day, with oil-related stocks providing one of the few points of interest.
The oil sector was bouncing back at midsession, in a move indicating that the market expects lower production increases from
than had been thought. There had been talk that OPEC, which is meeting today in Vienna, would increase production over its current quotas by around 1.7 million barrels a day -- a bit more than the market expected.
But around 12:30 p.m. EST, oil service stocks spiked higher and integrated oil stocks moved toward break-even, suggesting that the market expects exploration activity to increase. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index
was up 2.3%, while the
American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index
was off just 0.4%. The May oil futures contract off by 14 cents to $27.88 a barrel, having come up from lower levels.
Elsewhere, though, traders saw little to grab their attention.
"I'm not seeing anything making me jump in to buy or sell anything," said Sam Ginzburg, senior managing director of equity trading at
. "I'm kind of waiting for something to do rather than trying to make something happen. Hands are in the pockets."
Dow Jones Industrial Average
lately was off 48 to 11,065.
, down on disappointment that it didn't broker a deal with the
over the weekend, and
, giving back some of its recent gains, were jointly taking 53 points out of the Dow.
was near the flat line, off 2 to 1526.
Tech stocks were doing well. The
Nasdaq Composite Index
was up 31, or 0.6%, to 4994, while the
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter High Tech Index
was up 19, or 1.7%, to 1169.
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index was off 2 1/2, or 0.2%, to 1270.
was up less than a point to 575.
Bank and consumer cyclical stocks were all giving back some of their recent run-ups today, with the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index
down 2.4% and the
Morgan Stanley Consumer Index
off 1.2%. Some people are beginning to wonder whether the apparent shift into Old Economy names will have any staying power.
"I'm very intrigued by the sector rotation we've had in the last few weeks," said
chief investment strategist David Bowers. "One of the questions you need to ask is, is this a meaningful change or not?"
By Bowers' reckoning, such a shift comes at a strange time. The world and U.S. economies have yet to peak out, and the recent Fed hikes have yet to bite into demand. "The bottom line," he said, "is the rotation of the last few weeks -- we're not convinced it's the start of an change in emphasis."
New York Stock Exchange:
1,282 advancers, 1,528 decliners, 517 million shares. 68 new 52-week highs, 30 new lows.
Nasdaq Stock Market:
1,916 advancers, 2,104 decliners, 822 million shares. 93 new highs, 43 new lows.
For a look at stocks in the midsession news, see Midday Movers, published separately.