Today's Market: Battered Investors Buoyant for Second Consecutive Day

<LI>Fed inflation outlook due soon.</LI> <LI>Concerns about bad credit plague financial companies.</LI>
Author:
Publish date:

What me, worry?

Markets were in their old

Alfred E. Neumann

form, ignoring news from Florida before the results of the

Federal Open Market Committee meeting hits the street around 2:15 p.m. ET.

The blue-chip

Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech-dominated

Nasdaq Composite Index were solidly in the green. This action comes on the heels of yesterday's big market rally and news that the Florida recount will be (say it ain't so) finalized soon.

"It feels like a normal day, then again, I don't think we've had a normal day all year," said Brian Finnerty, head of trading at

C.E. Unterberg Towbin

. "We've got some big volatility out there, but I think this rally will stick for a little while. We're not out of the woods yet."

Just before the New York lunch hour kicked off, former Secretary of State

Warren Christopher

held press conference number 3,045 and called for the Florida Supreme Court to quickly solve problems related to the Florida recount. Earlier, Florida's now-well-known Republican Secretary of State,

Katherine Harris

, petitioned the high court to suspend hand counts in the state and consolidate all legal appeals into the same case.

Markets were not getting caught up in the specifics, taking both the Democratic and Republican posturing as signs that this eight-day period of presidential limbo will end sooner than later. Prior to the Christopher comments, the Dow was up 30 points. It then rose to session highs gradually as markets accepted the news and went about the business of conducting business.

"The market's reaction is beginning to get more muted," Finnerty said. "As time goes on, we're getting used to this."

And looking ahead, Wall Street is about an hour away from the result of the Fed meeting. All eyes will be on statements the policy making group makes about the inflation outlook.

On the Nasdaq, where four-lettered tickers seem to have lifted their November curse. Battered biotechs surged, with

Affymetrix

(AFFX)

,

Protein Design Labs

(PDLI) - Get Report

and

IDEC Pharmaceuticals

(IDPH)

leading the way.

Market Internals

Volume was still pretty light. Breadth (the number of stocks that are gaining compared to those that are declining), one day after swinging overwhelmingly positive, was mixed.

New York Stock Exchange: 1,529 advancers, 1,166 decliners, 561 million shares. 48 new 52-week highs, 42 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 1,821 advancers, 1,758 decliners, 851 million shares. 35 new highs, 99 new lows.

Back to top

Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

  • Solectron (SLR) : 17.9 million shares.
  • Nortel (NT) : 17.1 million shares.
  • Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report: 12.8 million shares.

Nasdaq Most Actives

Back to top

Sector Watch

Biotechnology stocks, once a beloved safe-play for investors burned by regular technology stocks, have been a little volatile in recent weeks. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. Biotechnology names in the

American Stock Exchange Biotechnology Index

have been pretty volatile all year, with a 550-point span between its 52-week high and low. So far in this month alone, the BTK, as the AMEX biotechs are known, have traded in a 170-point range, a huge span for an index whose top November value was 786.

That's a lot of volatility, and today was no different. The index rose 6.6%, making a serious upward swing after spending Monday 21% off from where it stood on Nov. 2.

Semiconductors have been having a pretty good day, tracking higher after

Analog Devices

(ADI) - Get Report

improved its fiscal outlook for the upcoming year. Last night, the company announced better-than-expected earnings, but it¿s the improved future forecast that really helped sooth fears of an industry-wide economic slump. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was edging higher.

Outside of technology, oil-related stocks and chemicals got a boost.

And today's big loser -- banks. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

fell 2.1% as conerns about exposure to bad credit spread.

Sunbeam

(SOC)

this morning said it would be deferring payment on its credit pact from November until April.

Goldman Sachs

cut its earnings per share forecasts for

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

on concerns over bad loans. And

First Union

(FTU)

took a beating Tuesday on talk it had non-performing loans. One of the suspected non-performers was Sunbeam. Along with Bank of America and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

, First Union lent a total of $1.7 billion to Sunbeam in March 1998.

Back to top

Bonds/Economy

Bonds were stronger today in the hope of good news on interest rates from today's

Fed policy meeting. There is a minority opinion that the Fed may move to a neutral bias about inflation, which suggests there would no further interest rate increases in the near term.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note is at 100 3/32, up 8/32, to yield 5.738%.

Historically low interest rates are still helping to keep consumers interested in the housing market. The

Mortgage Applications Survey

(

definition |

chart |

source

) for the week ended November 10 rose 6% to 690.4 from 651.2 in the previous week.

Business inventories

(

definition |

chart |

source

) for September edged up 0.1% after a rise of 0.7% in August. A rise of 0.3% had been expected. This was the slowest pace of increas in nearly two years. While stockpiling slowed, sales didn't. Businesses reported sales of $905 billion, as sales grew by 0.4% for the second month in a row (on revised August figures).

October's

industrial production

(

definition |

chart |

source

) index fell 0.1%, below expectation of a rise of 0.2%, after a 0.4% increase in September. A decline in auto production was the major factor.

Back to top

International

The European picture was a lot like British skies at dawn -- a little murky, but brightening as the day wore on. London's

FTSE

never overcame early sluggishness and pulled out a gain of 19.4 to 6432.3, helped out by rising oil stocks and good results from

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

. Those Parisians in the

CAC

rose 75.8 to 6301.8. But the Germans, those wily Germans, weren't so happy. The

Xetra Dax

fell 26.1 to 9640.6.

The oft-watched euro last traded at $0.8572.

Japanese markets had a great day, taking solace in that nice American move skyward yesterday in the wake of news that the Presidential election could be settled sometime in the next few days. The

Nikkei 225

rose 139.10 to 14,799.14, helped out by a rally in tech stocks. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

sat with a loss of 50.12 to 15,127.40, easing one day after posting a huge gain of 360 points.

The yen last traded at 108.74.

Back to top