Listen up Wall Street:
You can't always get what you want!
A day after the
Federal Reserve slashed interest rates by a half-percentage point -- as opposed to a more aggressive cut of 75 basis points -- investors were still stomping their feet in protest.
In very chopping trading, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average was lately plunging toward its lows for the session. After dropping sharply at the open, the blue-chip index rallied near the flatline, but was recently stuck well below it. "There's a growing perception that the Dow has some more room to the downside," said Peter Coolidge, managing director of trading at
Brean Murray Foster Securities
Making matters worse today was February's
Consumer Price Index, which was released before the opening bell this morning. The headline and core number, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, both came in a touch higher than economists had forecast so it raised concerns about inflation.
Nasdaq Composite Index had lately let go of morning gains. Talking about the tech measure's earlier advances, Coolidge said: "We've seen a rotation into Nasdaq stocks in recent weeks. But it hasn't amounted to anything." The broader
S&P 500 index was lower, too. Both the Nasdaq and S&P are mired deep in bear-market territory, meaning they're more than 20% off their all-time highs.
One positive sign this afternoon is that semiconductor stocks are trading higher. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
was lately ahead 4.3%. "People seem to be more comfortable putting their money into the technology market," said Matt Johnson, head of Nasdaq trading for
. Traders are saying that investors overreacted yesterday, and some are now looking for bargains in oversold sectors.
Federal Reserve yesterday afternoon lowered the
fed fund rates -- the interest rate at which banks lend money to each other overnight -- to 5%. This is the third time since January the monetary policy body has lowered rates to spur demand in the economy. But for stock market investors, the rate cut wasn't enough.
In its language, the Fed left open the possibility for another cut before its next official meeting on May 15. The
fed funds futures contract -- a good proxy of the expected direction of interest rates -- is now pricing in a 100% chance the Fed will cut before May 1. But some think the Fed is behind the curve in fixing a broken economy and that its statement just confused matters. "The Fed attempted to be soothing with its words," said Tony Crescenzi, chief bond market strategist at
. "But it just created uncertainty about whether or not there will be an intermeeting cut."
On the earnings front, brokerage stocks were active today, but their prices were near unchanged.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
was up 0.2% to $56.76 after it said its first-quarter
profit dropped 30% from the year-ago level.
was near unchanged at $65.86 after it posted first-quarter results today that
slightly exceeded Wall Street estimates, even as profits dropped nearly 28% from the year-ago period. And
was lately higher 1% to $47.25 despite the fact that its profits tumbled.
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In reaction to the
Bank of Japan's
efforts to bring the nation's economy back to life, stocks soared in Japan overnight -- the
racked up a surprising 913 point gain, or 7.49%, to close at 13,103.94. Hong Kong fared less well, with the key
ending the day down 69.4 points, or 0.52%, to 13154.4.
In a note out this morning,
attributed Japan's firecracker rally to a mix of aggressive year-end short-covering by funds as well as growing optimism over the BOJ's announcement on easing and the prime minister's international pledge to President Bush to make progress on the Japanese bad loan situation. Plus, two Wall Street firms recently went overweight Japan, the report said.
Merrill thinks it is still too early to upgrade Japan, however.
European markets sold off vigorously, due in part to disappointment over yesterday's rate cut in the U.S. The major indices were all registering three-digit losses. London's FTSE 100 fell 106, or 2%, to 5541. The Paris
dropped 115, or 2.2%, to 5024. And Frankfurt's
-- which is still trading -- was losing 155, or 2.7%, to 5627.
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