Today's Market: Election Day Looms, but Dow Wins in a Landslide Today

The Nasdaq was little changed, but the Dow was broadly higher.
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The election may be too close to call, but it sure wasn't too-close-for-comfort for the Dow today. Tomorrow is still Tuesday on Wall Street even if it's Election Day everywhere else, and ahead of that, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average powered out a big day while the

Comp toyed with small losses and gains.

The Dow rose 159 to 10,977, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 35 to 3416.

The Dow rampaged all day long. Right after the open, it spent a grand total of three minutes in the red and then took off like Evel Kneivel with a brand new death wish. By 1:10 p.m. EST, the Dow had pushed to the magical 11,000 barrier. That's much better than that freakish mid-October slip below 10,000, now isn't it?

Certainly, it is. The Dow components were either very strong, posting some nice gains, or barely lower. 22 of the 30 blue-chips were positive, with

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

leading the way, adding 29 to the Dow's gain.

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

,

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

and

United Technologies

were also quite good.

The Comp started with a nice gain, at one point nearly 30 points into the plus side, but then it dropped into the red at midmorning and wrestled with its opening number until the last hour of trading. That's when weakness slipped in and the Comp ended around session lows. Still, given the recent volatility on the Comp, a 70-point trading range from session high to session low seems rather tame.

The reason is

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

. Tonight, the company released earnings and everyone was watching. The company

reported earnings of 18 cents a share, a penny better than expectations.

Given the recent earnings season, and the dreadful spate of earnings warnings before it, many investors were skittish about Cisco's fortunes. Fears are that the company will either miss estimates or the nebulous "whisper number," the unrecorded and undefined combination of expectation and rumor that hard-core street traders use to assess earnings. Ahead of the release, Cisco was off $1.63, or 2.9%, to $55.13.

Elsewhere in tech, a rotting, acrid smell wafted out of Linux, a non-Windows-based computing system that is Microsoft's biggest competition. The stink started earlier today when

VA Linux

(LNUX)

announced that its first quarter wouldn't really look as good as it had previously hoped. It fell $12.63, or 42.1%, to $17.38, and killed the fortunes of many other Linux-related stocks, like

Red Hat

(RHAT)

, which makes the Red Hat operating system, a Windows competitor, and

Corel

(CORL)

, another Linux software maker.

And if you couldn't tell by the run-up in the Dow and the limited movement in the Comp, markets just aren't really too preoccupied with the Presidential election.

"It hasn't been worried about it," said Dan Ascani, president and director of research for

Global Market Strategists

. "I'd be more worried about the election causing a deadlock in Congress or something like that. They're looking at the broader picture, the entire election results and how that affects business and whether its favorable capital gains-wise."

So, Wall Street doesn't care about the identity of the next President of the United States?

"There is not a huge difference, ostensibly, between the two candidates," Ascani said.

Point taken. Wall Street certainly doesn't seem to think so, not with the breadth on the

New York Stock Exchange nearly dead even.

This is Very Rich

Instead of the election, Ascani points to the cyclical nature of the year as something that affected the market. Currently, we are in 2000, which is known in strategy circles as a "year zero." And years are not good to the market.

"Year-zero markets tend to go down anyway," he said, pointing out that this spring was the worst since 1970, also a year zero, before discussing a market stumble in 1980. "The market is going to go right past this election."

It's something to think about, especially when you consider that the last time America had an election this close, it was in 1960, when John F. Kennedy barely edged out favorite Richard Nixon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened up 1960 at 679.40. By Nov. 1 of that year, it sat at 577.90, 15% lower.

And the Dow over the same period this year? Thanks to recent rallies, the Dow's got a 5% loss on the year, but if you took the way back machine to Oct. 18, the Dow would've been 13% off and you could insert the creepy

Twilight Zone

music here.

Market Internals

Close. Very close. Winners and losers were in a dead heat headed into the close on the New York Stock Exchange, while the Nasdaq's internals were negative, but not horribly so.

New York Stock Exchange: 1,419 advancers, 1,384 decliners, 926 million shares. 80 new 52-week highs, 26 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 1,803 advancers, 2,140 decliners, 1.574 billion shares. 81 new highs, 97 new lows.

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Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

  • Sprint PCS (PCS) : 22.3 million shares.
  • AT&T (T) - Get Report: 22.1 million shares.
  • Lucent (LU) : 17.9 million shares.

Nasdaq Most Actives

  • Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report: 73.3 million shares.
  • Cisco: 65.7 million shares.
  • MCI WorldCom (WCOM) : 63.1 million shares.

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Sector Watch

Big movers were in relatively short supply, as everybody in the pool decides to tread water ahead of that little Presidential election that everyone's so darned interested in.

Financials were split this afternoon, as the insurers stayed well above water and the brokers gurgled below the surface. The

S&P Insurance Index

rose 2.2%, regaining some upward momentum after last week's steady stumble. Still, insurers were in great shape trading not far from record highs. But brokers, despite the 3% run-up in

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, weren't looking so good. The

American Stock Exchange Securities Broker/Dealer Index

fell 1.7%, as

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

,

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

and

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

all had terrible days.

Blow the whistle. Buddy up!

A quick "buddy check" around the good ol' free swim shows that wireless plays in the

Philadelphia Wireless Telecom Sector

, PC makers in the

Philly Computer Box Maker Sector

and those high-flying bitoechs splashed in the loss column. Kicking stronger in the win column were healthcare and drug stocks. The

AMEX Pharmaceutical Index

rose 1.5%, while the

S&P Health Care Index

rose 1.3%.

Oh, and could somebody toss those Linux-related companies some sort of a floatation device? After

VA Linux

(LNUX)

warned about earnings, everyone else with Linux business to do took a big hit.

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Bonds/Economy

Bonds were lower this afternoon in light volume ahead of tomorrow's elections. There are no new economic data.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note is at 99 5/32, down 8/32, to yield 5.863%.

The 30-year

Treasury bond is at 104 31/32, 15/32 lower, to yield 5.893%.

International

European markets saw mixed action today amid earnings releases and the

European Central Bank's

third intervention in the euro in two trading days.

The

FTSE 100

closed up 45.60 points at 6431. On the Continent, the

CAC-40

in Paris dropped 46.68 points at 6352.24 and the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was up 28.98 points at 7157.25.

The ECB intervened for the third time in two trading days to boost the value of the euro. Like Friday's interventions, the ECB acted without help from the U.S. or Japan. The intervention did support the currency, but wasn't giving it much of a boost. The euro initially rose by about 1 cent to $0.8720, but had recently fallen back to about 0.xx.

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