Andrew Morse and
On Wall Street, sometimes it takes a seismograph to detect shifting sentiment.
Sometimes, it doesn't.
Take health-care issues today. After
blowup earlier in the week, the rest of the sector has swiftly gone terminal. For a giddy Wall Street, it's one of the first major sector blowups in some time.
Today the group got smacked when
disappointed the Street with earnings reports that were in line with expectations.
United HealthCare gave up 4 13/16 to 53 1/4 after reporting earnings per share of 57 cents, exactly what a
survey of analysts had forecast. PacifiCare slipped 1/4 to 67 1/8 on an unremarkable earnings report, also in line with expectations.
"What you see is what you get," snorted one trader, who said the numbers were an excuse for some investors to take profits. "These stocks were popular with momentum investors and the momentum is definitely gone."
Others in sick bay:
, down 1/4 to 24 1/4;
, down 2 1/16 to 77 1/16; and
Foundation Health Systems
(FHS:NYSE), down 11/16 to 30 13/16. Even Aetna, which was upgraded by
to buy yesterday, floundered, falling 3 to 99.
Fortunately, the wrath was saved for just those few. The broader indices were hovering around break-even. The 30-year Treasury bond was down slightly as the government prepared to off-load $10 billion in new bonds after lunch.
Semiconductor shares, possibly buoyed by the
rose 1 11/16 to 59 1/16;
jumped 1 1/4 to 101 5/16;
leapt 1 5/16 to 28 3/16; and
levitated 2 1/8 to 128 1/8.
(RMBS:Nasdaq) wasn't left out of the party. It jumped 1 1/2 to 72 1/8. Not a bad move for a company that debuted at $12 three months ago and wasn't expected to go much higher.
In fact, Rambus' rise even has Wall Street experts flummoxed. "We're all puzzled," says Robert Chaplinsky, who covers the company for
Hambrecht & Quist
in civilized San Francisco. "It moves in very big spreads because there's not a lot of stock out."
rocketed 13 7/16, or 17.6%, to 90 after
announced it would spend $1.7 billion to form a research alliance aimed at speeding new crop development.