Today's Market: Dogpile on the Rabbit! Dow, Nasdaq Getting Walloped by Tech Miseries

Take an already shaky market, add a dash of earnings warnings and a pinch of analyst downgrades and this is what you get.
Author:
Publish date:

Last night's profit warnings from PC-maker

Gateway

(GTW)

and specialty chipmaker

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

, which went over with Wall Street like a lead balloon, have left the major indices with triple-digit losses in midday trading.

At last look, stabilization was not in sight. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 208 points to 10,420 and near its session lows. The

Nasdaq Composite Index, which tried to cushion its blows mid-morning, was off 154 points to 2553, close to its lowest levels of the day and below the 2600 support mark.

"The problem with the market is that there is no buying support," said Brian Belski, fundamental market strategist at

U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray

. "Until we have a solid day without bad news, we're not going to see a turnaround. A short-term oversold bounce will be the only thing to bring us out of the doldrums."

Without buyers, stock prices will continue to drop like flies. Investors today have picked over the Nasdaq's carcass, sending over 500 of its components to new 52-week lows. At the heart of the storm, shares of Gateway had lately plunged 39% to $18, while Altera had recently sunk 11.8% to $22.88. Many of the biggest names in technology --

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

, and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

-- had lost close to 10% at the midday mark.

Image placeholder title

Blue-chippers

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

, off 6% to $93.88,

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

, behind 8.5% to $31.63, in addition to Microsoft led the selloff on the Dow side.

Adding to the carnage in the wake of last night's pre-announcements has been an onslaught of analyst downgrades on technology stocks this morning.

Salomon Smith Barney

,

J.P. Morgan

,

Lehman Brothers

, and

Bear Stearns

all lowered their recommendations on Gateway. Salomon Smith Barney also cut its rating on Dell. In recent trading, the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

, which tracks the performance of PC stocks, had lost 10.6%.

"The microscope is now on the lack, or perceived lack, of corporate growth," Belski stressed.

Creaky Gate

Indeed, Wall Street has focused its attention on Gateway's profit warning, which by all accounts was severe. After the closing bell, the boxmaker warned that it anticipates fourth quarter sales and profits to come in sharply below Wall Street's forecasts.

"The economic slowdown, coupled with ongoing shifts in PC seasonality, clearly had a significant impact on our sales over the holiday weekend. We expect these issues will continue to have an effect on overall demand in the next 12 to 18 months," Gateway said in a statement. The company also lowered its full-year earnings guidance for 2001. (

TheStreet.com

analyzed Gateway's news in a separate

story.)

Worth noting is that Gateway was the only major boxmaker to survive the third-quarter -- which scalded the PC sector -- largely unscathed. But the PC manufacturer has been badly burned in the fourth quarter.

Enough Bad News for Everyone

Moving on to the other major casualty of the day, Altera was lately sharply lower after bottoming at a 52-week low of $19.63. After yesterday's close, the chipmaker lowered its guidance for fourth-quarter revenue, citing sluggish November sales. The warning brought on a slew of downgrades from the likes of

ABN Amro

,

Goldman Sachs

,

Lehman Brothers

and

Credit Suisse First Boston

.

The semiconductor sector has seen staggering losses today. Among the chips falling,

PMC Sierra

(PMCS)

dropped 13.3% to $89.75,

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

fell 11.5% to $30.38 and

Xilinx

(XLNX) - Get Report

, which saw its earnings-per-share estimates downgraded by

Lehman Brothers

along with Altera on Monday, decreased 9.7% to $38.75. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

had recently staggered 9%.

Still Bullish

On a day where good news was hard to find, Goldman Sachs' chief equity strategist and staunch bull Abby Joseph Cohen this morning reiterated her 12-month target for the

S&P 500 of 1650, which would be a 25% gain in the next year. Cohen, however, is no longer mentioning that in October she predicted that the S&P's would be at 1575 value by the end of 2000.

Sector Watch

No doubt, the semiconductor and PC sectors have stolen the show today. But the effect that their bad news has had on many groups is enormous.

In afternoon trading,

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

had stumbled 8.1%. Shares of Internet bellwether

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

had plummeted 8% to $35.94. In the midst of the holiday season, which is absolutely critical for Internet retailers,

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

lost 13.8% to $32.06 and

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

fell 11.4% to $23.75 in recent trading.

In fact, there was not much holiday cheer for retail stocks today as disappointment with today's same-store sales reports drove investors to sell. Most U.S. retailers reported only modest gains in November same-store sales, showing that consumers continue to be cautious about their spending as signs that the economy is slowing grow.

The

S&P Retail Index

was off 2.4%. A few retailers did report strong same-store-sales, including

Kohl's

(KSS) - Get Report

however, and were benefitting from it. Kohl's was up 0.2%.

Drug stocks continued their heady rally begun in early September, when the Nasdaq began to falter. The

American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index

was up 0.6%.

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

, which hit an all-time high yesterday, was off 0.3% to $94.50.

Oil stocks continued to lose ground today. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

fell off 5.5%.

Back to top

Bonds/Economy

Treasuries are rallying in response to the latest leg down in stock prices, dropping yields to new lows for the year. Falling stock prices continue to suggest to bond investors that growth will slow more in the months ahead, possibly prompting the

Fed to lower interest rates.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was up 15/32 to 102 2/32, its yied falling to 5.474%.

People are surer than ever that the Fed will lower the

fed funds rate in the next few months. For the first time,

fed funds futures contracts are discounting more than 100% odds that the fed funds rate will be 6.25% by April, down from 6.5% currently.

Earlier, Treasuries, which have been rallying for months on the expectation that economic growth would slow, largely ignored evidence that the slowdown is at hand.

"This is what we've been discounting since May when we began to rally," said Tony Crescenzi, bond market strategist at

Miller Tabak

and CEO of

Bondtalk.com

, said. "We get the action we've been looking for, and it starts to go the other way."

The latest evidence that the economy is slowing includes a surprisingly weak showing by the

Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index

(

definition |

chart ), and a rise in

initial jobless claims

(

definition |

chart |

source

).

The Chicago PMI, which gauges the health of Midwest-based manufacturing companies, plunged to 41.7 in November, its lowest reading since April 1991, from 48.7 in October. Economists polled by

Reuters

had forecast a slight rise to 48.9, on average. Readings below 50 indicate that the Midwest manufacturing sector is contracting rather than growing.

Initial jobless claims rose to 358,000, the highest since July 1998, from 339,000 the previous week. The four-week average rose to 343,000, also the highest since July 1998, from 331,000. The rise in claims for unemployment insurance indicates that demand for workers is easing as the economy slows.

Back to top

International

European markets were shaken from the get-go by Gateway's warning last night, and the dire consequences it would have for U.S. tech stocks. London's

FTSE

closed down 22.7 to 6142.2.

Across the channel, Paris'

CAC-40

finished down 132.57 to 5928.08, while Germany's

Xetra Dax

, still trading, was off 180.95 to 6417.37.

The euro was rebounding at $0.8691.

Asian markets were mixed overnight. Japan's

Nikkei 225

rose 140.87 to 14,648.51, while the Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

lost 184.67 to 13,984.39.

The greenback was getting 110.83 yen.

Back to top