Market players today echoed the words of an old
routine: Let's get small.
was today's standout index, rising 2.22 to 444.06 as smaller issues continued their rebound from deep depths. The Russell has risen in seven of the last eight sessions and sits just below its Nov. 5 close of 444.76. That's well off the Oct. 13 high of 465.21, but the measure is enjoying one of its strongest uptrends since the late-October mini-crash.
Small-caps are coming back, but the Russell 2000
is still short of its historic high
Other indices declined, but not very sharply. The broad
fared worst, sliding 3.36 to 1003.54 in a retreat from record levels. The tech-sparked
Nasdaq Composite Index
poked over the 1700 mark intraday but ended down 3.54 at 1676.90 as bellwethers
all fell out of positive territory. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
edged down 12.45 to 8117.25.
Still, market internals told the small-cap focus story. While the indices most swayed by big-cap movements declined, equity breadth remained positive all day on the major exchanges.
New York Stock Exchange
advancers topped decliners by 1,627 to 1,224 on 704 million shares. New NYSE highs soundly beat new lows, by 221 to 15. On the Nasdaq, 2,272 advancers outpaced 1,987 decliners on 875.7 million shares. New Nasdaq highs led new lows by 190 to 46.
Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at
, said the recent strength in small-caps and in the overall market shows that investors are starting to put the Asian economic crisis behind them. "I think what the market did for the fourth quarter was discount the Asia-induced soft landing that we're about to see unfold before our very eyes," he said. "It might not seem so soft at times, particularly to CEOs of Asia-exposed U.S. multinationals. But what seems to be in the cards is, we'll have a recovery from the Asia-induced soft landing beginning at the earliest in the third quarter of 1998, most likely in early 1999.
"The last two weeks, three of the top four groups have been basic materials, industrials and technology," Johnson went on. "When you see those companies at the top of the list, investors are becoming much more comfortable that the economy is recovering and the earnings are going to be there. What's worrisome is that the markets are signaling that we may have a wrestling match with inflation in late 1998 or early 1999."
Despite any worries, Johnson said he's having a grand time taking advantage of the bounce-back both here and in Asia. "I jumped on board a week or two ago, and it's been a really pleasant ride," he said. "I bought some Korean development bonds, and they're up 6 points. It takes me years to get that kind of return in the bond market." He added that he has bought some Korean stocks as well, but he cautioned that such investments remain pretty risky.
Tracy Herrick, market strategist at
, sees one particular risk looming in the spring mists. "The money's here, there's a sense of confidence, and then comes the unexpected," he said. "The unexpected is the yuan devaluation."
Herrick said he expects the Chinese to devalue their currency at some point later this year "to protect their markets and their trade surplus," both of which are challenged by the sharp decline in other Asian currencies. Such a move by China could trigger a fresh round of competitive devaluations and start the Asian crisis all over again, he said.
But for the next couple of months, Herrick said, a couple of factors will send the Dow streaking toward 8500: "First, there is absolutely no likelihood of a rise in interest rates in the eyes of investors, and second, the $100 billion that is being poured into Asia can only help U.S. markets. That combination is a powerful stimulus, and I don't see anything that will slow the market for the next two months because of it."
The bond market today came under heavy pressure from nervousness over
reports that Whitewater prosecutor
has offered full immunity to former White House intern
. The benchmark 30-year Treasury bond dropped 28/32 to 102 25/32 in price, the yield rising to 5.93%.
Thursday's market action
(earnings estimates from
; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified):
jumped 2 11/16, or 14%, to 21 15/16 on reports that the Internet software giant is seeking a buyer.
, the main focus of the speculation, rose 7/8 to 49 7/8. Also discussed as possible buyers for all or part of Netscape were
, down 2 3/4 to 98,
, down 1/2 to 23 7/8, and
, up 1 1/4 to 99 9/16.
looked at Netscape options activity in today's
Options Buzz, and Editor-in-Chief Dave Kansas offered a dispatch from Netscape's hometown in his
powered up 5 5/8, or 34.4%, to 22 1/8 on the news late
yesterday that it plans to acquire
for 7 million Pharmacopeia shares.
exploded up 7 1/2, or 30.3%, after late
yesterday reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.
dived 6 3/4, or 26%, to 19 1/4 after warning that increased spending in some areas may damage its operating margins. The company late
yesterday reported fourth-quarter earnings in line with expectations.
Technical Chemicals & Products
plunged 2 11/16, or 24.4%, to 8 7/16 after
Deutsche Morgan Grenfell
downgraded it to hold from buy.
was trashed 3 3/4, or 19%, to a post-offering low of 16 1/16 after late
yesterday warning of a fourth-quarter shortfall.
surged 5 1/4, or 14.5%, to 41 9/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 20 cents per share. That beat the four-analyst forecast by 4 cents and beat the year-ago 12 cents.
Hambrecht & Quist
upped 1998 earnings estimates on the stock.
gave up 3 1/8, or 13.2%, to 20 11/16 despite late
yesterday reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.
downgraded the stock to outperform from buy.
bounded 2 1/2, or 10.5%, to a 52-week high of 26 1/8 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 23 cents per share. That beat the two-analyst expectation by 3 cents and topped the year-ago loss of 29 cents.
A slew of retailers advanced on strong January same-store sales reports. Among the standouts,
rose 2 1/2, or 11.9%, to an all-time high of 24;
Pier 1 Imports
rose 2 1/16 to an all-time high of 27 15/16;
rose 2 3/8 to 39 9/16;
rose 4 7/8 to an all-time high of 76;
rose 2 9/16 to an all-time high of 54 5/16;
rose 2 1/8 to 50 1/4; and
rose 1 to an all-time high of 75.
took a close look at the retail sales environment in a
bounced 3 1/2, or 8.7%, to an all-time high of 43 13/16 after late
yesterday reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings.
Golden State Bancorp
popped up 2 1/4 to an all-time high of 38 after it agreed to merge with privately held
First Nationwide Holdings
. The combined bank will trade publicly under the Golden State name.
lifted 4 1/4 to 65 13/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.01 per share, a penny better than the 11-analyst projection and up from the year-ago 99 cents. The company raised its quarterly dividend to 34 cents per share from 31.5 cents.
dropped 3 1/8 to 34 7/8 after
Brown Brothers Harriman
slashed it to short-term avoid from hold.
ascended 1 1/4 to 35 3/4 after selling 15 million shares of
at $64.375 each. Seagram still holds 11.8 million Time Warner shares, or about 1.5% of the company. Time Warner shed 1 1/4 to 63 7/8.
Canadian National Railway
climbed 2 3/8 to 53 7/16 after confirming it is in talks to acquire
Illinois Central Railroad
for a price in the high $30s per share. Illinois Central was unchanged at 36 1/2.
declined 1 13/16 to 51 15/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 22 cents per share, a cent below the 10-analyst estimate but up from the year-ago 12 cents.
rose 15/16 to 43 after
started coverage at long-term buy with a 12- to 18-month price target of 51.
dipped 4 1/4 to 73 5/8 after Salomon Smith Barney reduced it to outperform from buy.
ran up 2 3/8 to 54 3/8 after
upgraded it to near-term buy from accumulate, maintaining a long-term buy.
World Color Press
increased 1 5/8 to 29 1/8 after late
yesterday reporting fourth-quarter earnings in line with expectations. The company also named a new CFO.
Zeigler Coal Holding
added 5/16 to 14 5/16 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 47 cents per share, 7 cents better than the two-analyst outlook but down from the year-ago 63 cents.
PacifiCare Health Systems
lost 2 1/8 to 58 1/8 on news that CFO Wayne Lowell is retiring. The company reiterated a fourth-quarter forecast of 30 cents per share, short of the 22-analyst view of 33 cents.
was burnished 3/16 to 19 7/16 after
initiated coverage at buy.
improved 3/8 to 16 3/4 after
Salomon Smith Barney
upgraded it to buy from outperform.