The last trading day of the first quarter finds money managers dancing with them that brung them, and dancing like dervishes at that.
All manner of stocks are higher this midday, but like the barnyard denizens of
, some are more equal than others. Big-cap technology stocks, which have led the market's 1998 rally all the way so far, are the leaders again today.
Around 12:25 p.m. EST the tech-spangled
Nasdaq Composite Index
was up 20, or 1.1%, to 1839, the large-cap
was up 19, or 1.6%, to 1226, the
Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35
was up 9, or 1.6%, to 546 and the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
was up 7, or 2.6%, to 301. The Comp, the Nasdaq 100 and the Morgan Stanley index were on pace for new record closes, with
in the vanguard.
The big tech members of the
were pushing that index up 15, or 1.4%, to 1109, passing the March 24 closing record of 1105.65. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up 107, or 1.2%, to 8889, in sight of its March 20 record of 8906.43. The small-cap
, up 4, or 0.8%, to 480, was on pace to top its Thursday record of 477.81.
The year-to-date stats on the major indices tell the story of what managers want to show clients on their quarter-end statements. Through yesterday, the Russell 2000 was up 9%, the Dow was up 11.1%, the S&P 500 was up 12.7%, the Nasdaq Comp was up 15.8% and the Nasdaq 100 was up a massive 21.8%.
"You've got the end of the quarter, you're seeing some money being out to work," said Jim Herrick, managing director of trading at
Robert W. Baird
in Milwaukee. "Oil prices are lower, which has helped the bond market. I expect the market to finish stronger, but I wouldn't be surprised if we take a breather tomorrow and Thursday ahead of nonfarm payrolls." The much-anticipated March
comes out Friday morning, with the
National Association of Purchasing Management Index
Larry Rice, chief investment officer at
, has spent the last several weeks calling for a pullback in stock prices to improve valuation levels. But
last week's 110.35-point Dow slide was "not enough to get me excited," he said. "I think you need more than just a little bit of a correction. Valuations at these levels continue to be very stretched. You're getting a little bit of help from the bond market today, but yields are way off their lows. Caution continues to be the watchword at these levels."
Rice isn't sanguine about the upcoming earnings season, for which analysts have cut their estimates lower than
used to slash prices. "It's standard operating procedure: Guide 'em down, surprise 'em on the upside," Rice said. "Microsoft's the master at that one. But stocks are trading at virtual record highs, and with the dollar high, I'd expect downside earnings surprises. Most of the benefits from all the years of restructuring have already been wrung into this market."
And even though Rice stresses that he makes his comments in the context of an ongoing bull market, he thinks the current environment is over-rewarding stocks for beating expectations. "Momentum is carrying stocks way too far," he said. "Stuff like
that goes up 15 points and doesn't even back off -- you just shake your head at this stuff." Manugistics Group
Thursday reported a loss 2 cents per share better than expectations, then soared 15 3/16 to 53 3/16 in Friday trading. At midday today it was up 1 1/2 to 56 5/16.
Tuesday 's Midday Movers
was down 8 3/16, or 26%, to 23 1/4 after saying
last night that its first- and second-quarter earnings would fall below forecasts.
was up 6 5/16, or 23.4%, to an intraday high of 33 1/2 after announcing
last night that its fourth-quarter earnings are expected to exceed estimates. The company also set a 3-for-2 stock split.
Advanced Tissue Sciences
was down 2 3/8, or 20.3%, to 9 3/8 after late yesterday announcing the recall of some lots of its Dermagraft and Dermagraft-TC products.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
cut it to neutral from outperform and
SBC Warburg Dillon Read
decreased it to neutral from buy.
was up 2 3/8, or 17%, to 16 1/2 after
Bankers Trust Alex. Brown
started coverage with a strong buy.
was up 4, or 14.6%, to 31 3/4 after agreeing to merge with privately held
in a stock swap. SLH will change its name to Syntroleum.
was up 4 1/8, or 12.9%, to an intraday high of 36 1/16 after announcing
yesterday that it has reached an agreement with a division of
to co-promote one Forest's products. This morning, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised it to strong buy from outperform.
was up 4 3/16, or 10.7%, to 43 5/8 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter raised it to outperform from neutral.
Advanced Micro Devices
was up 2 9/16, or 9.7%, to 29 1/8 after
upgraded it to buy from hold.
was up 11/32, or 6.9%, to 5 3/8 after agreeing to be acquired by
in a stock deal valued at $169 million. Omnicare was up 1 1/4 to 39 5/16.
was up 2 5/16 to 59 3/4 after a
Wall Street Journal
report that the company will merge its operations into large divisions as part of a major restructuring plan.
was up 1 11/16 to an intraday high of 61 5/16 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 64 cents per share, 4 cents ahead of the five-analyst estimate.
American Home Products
was up 2 13/16 to 94 9/16 after
upped it to outperform significantly from outperform.