Stocks Skulk Lower as the May Malaise Sets In

Volume is still on the light side.
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If this keeps up, they'll start thinking about renicknaming the

New York Stock Exchange

the Big

Bored

. Today, for the seventh consecutive session, fewer than 800 million shares traded on the NYSE, adding to a string of 13 consecutive sessions in which fewer than 900 million shares have changed hands. Meanwhile, just three of the

once commonplace billion-plus-share sessions have materialized in

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity since April 29. (Hint: Today was not among them.)

"I'm just sitting here watching the market go blah," said Doug Myers, vice president of equity trading at

Interstate/Johnson Lane

in Atlanta. "This is just a regular generic monthly expiration. It's really sort of anemic -- there's some iron-poor blood here."

Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the dog days of May. Neither a robust rally in the bond market nor the expiration of stock and index options could keep stocks from making their appointed rounds with subdued solemnity.

That is, stock proxies fell in quiet trading today, save the

Russell 2000

, which rose 1.24, or 0.3%, to 449.26. Also, the

Dow Jones Utility Average

rose 0.54, or 0.2%, to 325.15, its third-straight record close.

Other major averages backtracked, however, thanks largely to persistent weakness in technology bellwethers -- both of the traditional and Internet variety -- as well as selling in select drugmakers, transports and financials.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was again in the unenviable position of being the worst-performing major index. The tech-defrocked average closed down 21.44, or 0.8%, to 2520.79 after trading as high as 2533.76 and as low as 2509.24.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index shed 1.41, or 0.2%, to 623.38.

Leading the Comp's decline were former juggernauts such as

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

,

MCI WorldCom

(WCOM)

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

. The

Nasdaq 100

shed 1.2%.

Furthermore, chip-equipment makers such as

Novellus Systems

(NVLS)

continued to return recent gains, leading the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

down 1.8%.

The decline in tech leadership was made more troubling in that it came despite a stellar rally in the bond market. Falling bond yields are supposed to make stocks with extended price-to-earnings valuations more palatable. Yet with the price of the 30-year Treasury bond up 30/32 to 92 25/32, its yield slipping to 5.76%, equity investors refused to sidle up to the growth-stock buffet.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell 37.46, or 0.3%, to 10,829.28, while the

S&P 500

shed 8.54, or 0.6%, to 1330.29.

In addition to the aforementioned tech laggards, the blue-chip averages were restrained by weakness in

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

,

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

,

Eastman Kodak

(EK)

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

.

Dow gainers were led by

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, up 4% on news its (still) 80%-owned

Delphi Automotive Systems

(DPH)

will be added to the

S&P 500

. Delphi rose 4.6%.

Energy stocks such as

Exxon

(XON) - Get Report

also helped prevent a bigger decline; the

American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index

rose 2.4%.

"The market just sort of tapered off all day long," Myers said. "The bond market is moving in the right direction but

the stock market is not paying attention for whatever reason."

The recent "listless" activity "might be the eye before the storm," the trader said. "The problem is, do we really take off or take it on the chin to the downside? I don't know."

Like other traders, Myers noted institutional clients "haven't been eager beavers" of late on the buy side, seemingly willing to "sit there and wait."

"Maybe they're building cash positions," he continued. "I hope so and come the end of the quarter everyone says, 'Whoa, I got to be invested.' Americans continue to save by investing in common stocks. It's the savings vehicle of choice."

In NYSE trading, 692.1 million shares were traded while advancers led declining stocks 1,596 to 1,321. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

activity, 894.1 million shares were exchanged while gainers led 2,007 to 1,921. New 52-week highs led new lows 53 to 34 in Big Board activity and by 78 to 39 in over-the-counter trading.

As Expected, No Worries

When

TheStreet.com

last spoke with Barry Hyman, senior market strategist at

Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum

, on

May 4, he predicted a roughly 7% correction in major averages beginning around May 15.

"You are in that correction period" now, Hyman said this afternoon. "There's little good news out there. Throw in the potential for an unfriendly

Fed

and it's going to make the short term more difficult."

The strategist reiterated the 7% correction prediction, but "you still have to be impressed with overall market behavior," he said. "You're not seeing collapses in stocks. Maybe that will come, but small- and mid-caps are setting new potential recovery highs. Says to me there's still tremendous money flow coming into the market and going sector to sector. I think that's extremely healthy and what's going to keep the market from having a serious correction."

In the short term, the market will trade in "lock-step to the bond market," Hyman predicted. "You didn't see that today because a lot of

the action was dominated by options" expiration.

Looking ahead, next Wednesday's durable goods report and Friday's revised GDP figures as well as the factory goods figures on June 3 should be telling inflation gauges, he said.

"I'm very nervous looking at those,

but I'm not that concerned about interest rates," he said. "This market does not translate into a 7% yield market and 20% decline like many bears are professing. I'm willing to buy the weakness. I'm not aggressive on the upside, but no one else is either."

Specifically, Hyman recommends financials such as

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

and

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

. "Valuations are compelling if you believe interest rates are not going substantially higher," he said.

Other favorites include "secondaries" such as

Phillips-Van Heusen

(PVH) - Get Report

and drug maker

AstraZeneca

(AZN) - Get Report

.

Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum has done no underwriting for any of the aforementioned.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

fell 57.26, or 1.6%, to 3551.26; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

added 3.34, or 0.4%, to 795.37.

For the week, the Dow industrials fell 84.04, or 0.8%; the S&P 500 slid 7.51, or 0.6%; the Nasdaq Comp shed 7.07, or 0.3%; the Russell 2000 added 6.01, or 1.4%; TheStreet.com Internet index lost 6.15, or 1%; the Dow transports dropped 115.08, or 3.1% the Dow utilities gained 9.17, or 2.9%; and the Amex Composite rose 6.56, or 0.8%.

Elsewhere in North American equities today, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

slid 8.89 or 6965.97 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

plunged 159.99, or 2.8%, to 5639.50. For the week, the TSE 300 rose 79.47, or 1.2%, and the IPC dropped 273.70, or 4.6%.

Friday's Company Report

By Heather Moore
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

Hauppauge Digital

(HAUP)

rocketed 14 15/16, or 120.1%, to an all-time high of 27 13/16 after

Business Week's

Inside Wall Street column said the company plans to announce a joint venture with a large Internet company that broadcasts streaming media programming on the Web. Citing a New York money manager, the column also said the company is forming a marketing alliance with a major e-commerce company. Elsewhere,

Agco

(AG) - Get Report

, an agricultural equipment maker, jumped 2 5/16, or 21.8%, to 12 15/16 after the column said some analysts and money pros think the company could be a takeover target. Finally,

Modem Media.Poppe Tyson

(MMPT)

surged 3 3/4, or 15.4%, to 28 3/8 after a bullish mention in the column.

AmeriLink

(ALNK)

soared 3 7/8, or 36.5%, to 14 9/16 after

Tandy

(TAN) - Get Report

agreed to buy it in an all-stock deal valued at $75 million. Tandy added 2 7/16 to 78 7/16.

Software company

TenFold

(TENF:Nasdaq) shot up 5 7/8, or 34.6%, to 22 7/8 after

Goldman Sachs

priced its 4.7 million-share IPO top-range at $17 a share. Elsewhere,

@plan

(APLN:Nasdaq) picked up 2, or 14.3%, to 16 after last night

Hambrecht & Quist

priced its 2.5 million-share IPO top-range at $14 a share.

Still elsewhere in new issues,

David's Bridal

(DABR:Nasdaq) added 1/8 to 13 1/4 after

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

priced its 8 million-share IPO below-range at $13 a share. And

Newgen Results

(NWGN:Nasdaq) lost 1 1/4, or 9.6%, to 11 7/8 after H&Q priced its 3.73 million-share IPO mid-range at $13 a share. The company provides customized, outsourced database management, direct marketing and related services for service departments of car dealerships and manufacturers.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Armco

(AS)

climbed 7/8, or 15.6%, to 6 1/2 after

AK Steel

(AKS) - Get Report

agreed to buy it for $7.50 a share in stock, or $842 million. AK Steel fell 1 3/16, or 5%, to 22 3/8.

Grupo Radio Centro

(RC) - Get Report

swelled 7/16, or 7.6%, to 6 3/16 after last night saying its controlling shareholders, the Aguirre family, are considering launching a tender offer for the company's outstanding shares.

Rental Service

(RSV)

expanded 1 1/2, or 6.7%, to 23 13/16 after last night dropping plans to acquire

NationsRent

(NRI)

for $430 million. NationsRent, which slid 7/16, or 7.2%, to 5 5/8, said the merger terms restricted its growth potential. Separately, Rental Service said it hired financial advisers to review strategic alternatives and that it still recommends shareholders reject a takeover bid from

United Rentals

(URI) - Get Report

, which tacked on 1 7/16, or 5%, to 30 1/16.

Revlon

(REV) - Get Report

grew 1 1/4 to 30 1/2 after

The New York Times

said

Coty

, a seller of fragrances and cosmetics, is in talks to acquire part or all of debt-ridden cosmetics company. Coty is a unit of

Benckiser

(BNV)

, a Dutch consumer products company.

Telecom Italia

(TI)

flew 7 9/16, or 7.5%, to 109 after

Olivetti

won majority control of the company as part of its $65 billion bid for Europe's fourth biggest telecom group.

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

and

Schering-Plough

(SGP)

humored investors and played the weekly roles of Friday rumored takeover stocks. But the performance wasn't all that convincing -- WLA lost a mild 1 13/16 to 66 7/8 and SGP fell a mere 1/4 to 48 1/2 as speculation swirled about the companies hooking up.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

ADC Telecommunications

(ADCT) - Get Report

excelled 2 3/8, or 5%, to 50 1/4 after posting second-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, 2 cents higher than the 21-analyst estimate and above the year-ago 25 cents.

Borders

(BGP)

vaulted 9/16 to 16 5/8 after late yesterday meeting analysts' expectations for a first-quarter loss of a penny a share. Today, the company's

Borders.com

formed an online alliance with Internet media company

About.com

.

Ciena

(CIEN) - Get Report

popped up 3 3/4, or 14.3%, to 30 1/16 after last night recording second-quarter earnings of 1 cent share, including costs for the acquisition of

Lightera Networks

. A Ciena official said the company earned 2 cents after removing the charge. The 11-analyst outlook called for an operating loss of 3 cents vs. the year-ago net profit of 14 cents, which also included charges.

Flowers Industries

(FLO) - Get Report

lowered 7/16 to 23 1/2 after recording first-quarter earnings of 25 cents a share, in line with the 10-analyst view and ahead of the year-ago 17 cents.

Keebler Foods

(KBL)

rose 15/16 to 33 3/16 after reporting first-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share, 2 cents ahead of the 10-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 16 cents.

McDermott

(MDR) - Get Report

advanced 3/8 to 26 3/4 after posting fourth-quarter earnings of 56 cents a share, topping the six-analyst forecast for 39 cents and moving above the year-ago 30 cents.

Offerings and stock actions

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

(DLJ)

slipped 2 3/16 to 71 3/8 after filing an amendment to its registration statement with regulators for the proposed IPO of its online brokerage unit

DLJdirect

. DLJ raised the amount of shares to be offered to 16 million from 15 million and increased the planned price range to $18 to $20 a share from $13 to $15.

internet.com

(INTM:Nasdaq), which owns and operates a network of integrated business-to-business Web sites, said it will offer up to 3.4 million shares in its planned IPO. The estimated initial price range for the offering is $10 to $12 a share.

Analyst actions

Alcan Aluminum

(AL) - Get Report

jumped 1 5/8, or 5.4%, to 31 7/8 after Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette lifted the stock to buy from hold.

Atlantic Coast Airlines

(ACAI)

skidded 6 3/4, or 29.8%, to 15 7/8 after

BT Alex. Brown

downgraded the stock to buy from strong buy. The firm also sliced its 1999 earnings estimate for the company to $1.70 from $1.98 a share.

Buckeye Technologies

(BKI) - Get Report

surged 1 3/16, or 7.7%, to 16 11/16 after

PaineWebber

upped it to buy from attractive.

Devon Energy

(DVN) - Get Report

leapt 1 3/4, or 5.2%, to 35 1/2 after Goldman Sachs raised it to trading buy from market outperform.

priceline.com

(PCLN)

expanded 4 1/2 to 138 15/16 after DLJ initiated coverage with a buy and a price target of 190.

Roper Industries

(ROP) - Get Report

grew 2, or 6.5%, to 32 7/8 after

Salomon Smith Barney

raised it to outperform from neutral with a price target of 37.

Miscellany

Baker Hughes

(BHI)

flew 1 3/4, or 5.9%, to 31 1/4 after naming G. Stephen Finley chief financial officer, replacing Eric Mattson.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe

(BNI)

tanked 1 3/16 to 33 3/4 after announcing a restructuring plan aimed at lowering operating costs and improving its competitive position. The railroad operator said it will cut 7% of its workforce, or 400 jobs, by the end of the second quarter. The company also warned that earnings for the second quarter will come in below the year-ago profit of 58 cents a share. The 11-analyst forecast called for 60 cents.

Delphi Automotive Systems sailed up 15/16 to 21 5/16 on last night's news it will replace

Moore

(MCL)

(no relation to this reporter, who is remaining of -- if not in -- the index) in the S&P 500 after the close May 27. Moore collapsed 1 1/16, or 11%, to 8 5/8. General Motors will complete the spinoff of Delphi May 28.

Mechanical Technology

(MKTY)

soared 4 1/8, or 19.8%, to an all-time high of 25 1/8 after late yesterday the company said its fuel cell venture with

DTE Energy

(DTE) - Get Report

, called Plug Power, successfully demonstrated an automotive fuel cell powered by gasoline. DTE Energy added 5/16 to 43 1/8.

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

lowered 15/16 to 71 5/16 after rising as high as 73 11/16 upon receiving approval from the

Food and Drug Administration

to market its

Vioxx

drug for relief of the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, management of acute pain in adults and treatment of menstrual pain.

MGC Communications

(MGCX)

rallied up 4 1/4, or 17.6%, to 28 7/16. Options on the stock will begin trading on the American Stock Exchange Wednesday.