Today's Market: Dow Gains, but Nasdaq Returns to Losing Ways - TheStreet

This is the way the year ends -- not with a bang, but a

whimper.

During this last week of trading in a dismal year for the stock market, technology stocks were weaker, energy stocks surged, and market internals are once again poor. The market got some mileage out of the natural gas and energy sector -- after heating prices jumped again in what's so far a bitter winter in the United States. Energy stocks helped a reasonably quiet session.

Overall, the

S&P 500 index ended higher, bolstered by gains in some defensives: energy, financials and drug stocks. The tech-laden

Nasdaq Composite Index had a hard day. Barring a recovery later this week (still, you can wish, if you'd like), the Nasdaq is on track to ring up its worst performance in its history.

Natural gas was recently fetching its highest price in 10 years. Heating prices have been climbing steadily as much of the nation suffers through the beginning of winter. Energy prices have been persistently high over the last several months in anticipation of a hard winter with diminishing supplies. While oil prices have dropped from the peaks witnessed over the summer, natural gas prices continue to rise. These climbing prices are benefiting stocks with an interest in the area -- the same reaction oil stocks had earlier in the year as stocks climbed along with the cost of a barrel of oil.

The

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

gained 8.9%, with

Enron

(ENE)

up 2.9%.

Williams

(WMB) - Get Report

rose 13.9% after the company said fourth-quarter results -- to be reported Jan. 31 -- would likely beat estimates. The

Dow Jones Utility Average

was 3.3% higher.

Other energy indices were strong, though not matching the strength of natural gas-related companies. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

rose 5.7%.

The downside side today belonged to technology and optical names. The major tech indices were uniformly lousy, including the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index

, down 2.4% and the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

, down 1.4%.

Today's losses in the Nasdaq follow the index's 7% surge on Friday. Investors who stepped in this morning must be questioning their timing. To wit:

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

,

Corning

(GLW) - Get Report

and

Ciena

(CIEN) - Get Report

were all lower after gains on Friday.

Dow Jones Industrial Average component

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

, the home improvement retailer, fell 2.3% after a comment from

Bear Stearns

. Retail analyst Dana Telsey said the company was in danger of falling short of her forecast for earnings. Telsey had been expecting Home Depot to earn 24 cents a share for the fourth quarter.

Market Internals

Breadth was weak on average volume.

New York Stock Exchange: 1,749 advancers, 1,170 decliners, 802 million shares. 263 new highs, 94 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 1,706 advancers, 2,320 decliners, 1.5 billion shares. 103 new highs, 383 new lows.

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Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

  • Lucent Technologies (LU) : 32 million shares.
  • AT&T (T) - Get Report: 21.4 million shares.
  • Nortel Networks (NT) : 13.9 million shares.

Nasdaq Most Actives

  • WorldCom (WCOM) : 49.9 million shares.
  • JDS Uniphase (JDSU) : 37.9 million shares.
  • Cisco (CSCO) - Get Report: 38.6 million shares.

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Sector Watch

OK, so not everybody hates Internet stocks.

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

reported holiday sales way ahead of estimates, and that's got the stock running higher today. The stock was up 5.5%. It helped bump up

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

, which gained 8.8%.

Retailers were weak. Home improvement retailer

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

lost 1.7% in sympathy with Telsey's report on Home Depot.

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

was down 3.6%. On this day after Christmas, the

S&P Retail Index

was off 2.1%. The shopping season didn't go as well as people had hoped and now retailers are running sales as they try to stir up business in this week before the New Year's holiday.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasury notes and bonds are trading flat on very light activity as the market reacts to movement in the stock market. With no major economic data due this week, bond traders will probably keep their eyes on the S&P.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down by 3/32 at 105 14/32, yielding 5.028%.

There are no releases of economic reports today.

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International

Markets in London were closed today for

Boxing Day, and other European businesses also were shuttered.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was also closed. In Japan, where economic troubles continue, the Nikkei 225 gained 76.24, or 0.55%, to 14007.85. New data out of Japan shows the unemployment rate is rising, while consumer spending is slowing.

The euro was lately trading at 0.9287. It has been gaining on the dollar recently as the domestic economy weakens.

The dollar was recently getting 113.61 yen, a new 13-month high for the dollar.

For more information about global markets, see

TheStreet.com's

Global Indices.

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