Thursday: Stocks Finish Mixed Ahead of Jobs News

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By John J. Edwards III
Staff Reporter

After diving below its 1996 year-end close of 6448.27 more than once in a choppy trading session, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

furiously treaded water late in the day to stay barely afloat for the year with a loss of 39.66 to 6477.35.

Even that relatively modest decline wasn't what it seemed, however, as four stocks accounted for 31.73 points of the drop:

Chevron

(CHV)

,

Exxon

(XON) - Get Report

,

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

and

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

. One gauge of the broader relative strength in stocks was the big-cap

S&P 500

, which crept up 0.21 to 750.32.

The two oil stocks joined their entire industry in plunging on negative comments from

Merrill Lynch

and low crude-oil prices. Chevron fell 2 3/4 to 64 3/8, Exxon lost 2 3/4 to 102 1/4, former Dow member

Texaco

(TX) - Get Report

skidded 3 1/8 to 102 3/4 and oil-service company

Halliburton

(HAL) - Get Report

gave up 2 5/8 to 64 3/8.

Boeing swooped down 2 3/8 to 95 7/8 on last night's news that U.S. officials ordered inspections of the wing flaps of some Boeing 767s. Last week a bolt on a

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

767 failed and a 20-foot flap section fell off.

As for Big Periwinkle, the computer giant lost 2 3/8 to 131 3/8 after

The Wall Street Journal

highlighted downward revisions of earnings estimates. There was little spillover to other computer companies, with

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

unchanged at 50 5/8,

Compaq

(CPQ)

up 1 1/4 to 74 and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

up 7/8 to 68 3/4.

Technology and financial issues, battered recently by concerns about earnings and interest rates, were among the market's leaders today. Dow component

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

rose 2 1/8 to 99,

BankAmerica

(BAC) - Get Report

added 1 1/4 to 101 3/8 and

Citicorp

(CCI) - Get Report

gained 1 3/4 to 111 5/8. On the

Nasdaq Composite Index

, the six most active stocks were high-tech names and all moved sharply higher as the measure bounced off the 1200 level.

Alan Ackerman, market strategist at

Fahnestock

, said the markets were nervous in advance of tomorrow's important March employment report. The bond market expressed its nervousness as stasis, with yield on the bellwether 30-year Treasury bond basically unchanged at 7.07%. "The

stock market does not seem to have found a footing from which to begin a rally," he said. "My own investment advice is cash and caution at the moment."

A rare

positive

earnings preview dialed up big gains for

Lucent Technologies

(LU)

. The

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

equipment spinoff rose 1 3/4 to 52 after saying its second-quarter earnings would be 9 cents to 10 cents per share. The

First Call

consensus estimate was just 4 cents.

Also gaining on an upbeat forecast was

Quarterdeck

(QDEK)

, which leapt 11/16 to 3 after saying it expects second-quarter earnings in line with the First Call view of 1 cent per share.

Diamond Multimedia

(DIMD)

went quite the other way, hemorrhaging 1 3/4 to 6 5/8 on analyst downgrades after it previewed a first-quarter loss.

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

continued to cruise higher on takeover speculation, tacking on 1 to 18 7/8.

AES

(AES) - Get Report

rallied 2 3/8 to 58 3/8 on an upgrade to strong buy from buy by

Salomon Brothers

. The brokerage -- whose parent,

Salomon Inc.

(SB) - Get Report

, gained 3/4 to 53 1/4 on rumors of new merger activity in its industry -- cited AES' deal to build and run a power plant in Brazil.

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

just can't get enough of this Internet stuff. On the heels of Monday's announcement of a new Disney Web site for kids, the Mickey Mouse outfit announced the impending debut of the 24-hour service

ABCNEWS.com

. Partners in the venture include

America Online

(AOL)

,

Netscape

(NSCP)

and site designer

Starwave

-- in which Disney just bought a big stake. Disney shares slipped 1/4 to 72 5/8, while AOL added 7/8 to 45 1/2 and Netscape rose 1/2 to 29 5/8.

PictureTel

(PCTL)

fell 3/4 to 10 1/4 after saying it expects earnings "somewhat lower" than analysts' estimates. First Call was looking for 21 cents per share.

Scios

(SCIO)

imploded 2 1/16 to 4 11/16 on last night's news that it suspended development of its Auriculin drug.

PAR Technology

(PTC) - Get Report

got crushed 1 5/8 to 8 3/8 after saying it expects a first-quarter loss of 22 cents to 26 cents per share, compared with the First Call estimate of an 8-cent profit.

Ilog SA

(ILOGY:Nasdaq ADR) absorbed a forced stock split of more than 2-for-1, collapsing 4 to 3 1/2 after previewing a first-quarter loss.

Cowen

downgraded the stock to buy from strong buy.

Emmis Broadcasting

(EMMS) - Get Report

fell 3/4 to 37 1/4 despite reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 11 cents per share, 4 cents better than the First Call expectation. The company said it would continue to seek merger and acquisition opportunities.

An upgrade to buy from accumulate at

Dean Witter Reynolds

boosted shares of

HBO & Co.

(HBOC)

5 1/8 to 48 3/4.

Manugistics

(MANU) - Get Report

also benefited from an upgrade, rising 3 1/2 to 37 3/4 on

Everen's

hike to outperform from market performer and

Alex. Brown's

increase to strong buy from buy.

Spanish-language TV company

Telemundo

(TLMD)

took a big hit on downgrades at Alex. Brown and Salomon, losing 6 1/4 to 20.

Patterson Dental

(PDCO) - Get Report

got a bad checkup from

Smith Barney

, which cut its rating on the company to outperform from buy. Patterson lost 2 3/4 to 31 1/4.