Trading was choppy at midday, with tech stocks parked in the red and blue-chips swinging indecisively.
After parting ways shortly after the open, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average moved higher by more than 60 points, before reversing course around 11 a.m. EDT. It was lately swinging slightly higher.
"Trading has been jerky, not trendless or themeless, just choppy," said Bill Schneider, head of U.S. equity block trading at
. "The rallies are not sustained, but the selloffs can't build momentum either."
Meanwhile, tech shares couldn't get any satisfaction of late, and have spent the entire morning underwater. The
Nasdaq Composite Index had trimmed its losses but was still lower.
"Basically the market is still struggling under the three "E's": energy, earnings and the falling euro. They are contributing to a very high level in the fear index," said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist at
Other strategists echo the sentiment. "There's a lot of iffy things out there in the market right now, " said Peter Da Puzzo, president of
. "The volume has been good, but because of inflation worries and lower earnings forecasts, a lot of people are taking a defensive stance. The interesting thing is that once some of the pressure cools off, you are poised for a rally," he said.
That view is something Cardillo touched on as well, saying all the current negativity will eventually give way to upside or a relief rally. He expressed optimism about the third-quarter earnings outlook. "The elimination process of the above
earnings, energy prices and euro weakness will begin with corporate earnings. From a contrarian viewpoint, when negative sentiment increases to its heights, a turnaround usually sets in. The more negative news, the greater the chance that an elimination process will take hold, and we could see a reversal process set in. Until then, it's going to be choppy," he said.
Back at the earnings ranch,
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
stirred things up in the financial sector with a mixed bag of numbers for its third-quarter earnings report. The investment bank reported earnings of $1.09 a share, missing the 14-analyst estimate of $1.17, but up from year-ago earnings of 83 cents a share. Still, Morgan Stanley reported a 28% jump in third-quarter profits due to trading gains. In a separate story,
took a look
behind the numbers .
The news that it missed the consensus estimate came as a bit of a surprise, since fellow brokerage firms
posted strong earnings results earlier this week. Morgan Stanley was lately tumbling 10.3%, to $86.06.
"The Morgan Stanley Dean Witter earnings are letting some air out of that greatly inflated ballon," said Schneider, referring to stocks in the financial sector. The stocks have been on a hot streak amid merger speculation in recent months. Since the beginning of July,
are up more than 50% (through yesterday's close), while
is up more than 20%.
And for investors sick of hearing earnings sob stories, Dow component
positive outlook, was music to the ears. The diversified manufacturer said it expects annual sales growth of about 11% and earnings-per-share growth of about 13% over the next three years. 3M said strong results in Asia will help it achieve earnings expectations for the second half of the year, and it is redirecting its investments toward high-growth sectors. The stock was lately popping 3.1% to $70.
Car rental company
sped to the top of the
Big Board highfliers list after
offered to reacquire the 18.5% of the company it doesn't already own for $30 a share. The price represents about a 24% premium over yesterday's closing price. It was lately flying 28.1%, to $31.06. We wrote a separate story on the
The economic data stream was more of trickle.
Initial jobless claims came in at 308,000 for the week ending Sept. 16, less than the forecast of 318,000 and down from a revised 326,000 in the prior week.
Meanwhile the Philadelphia Fed Index showed that manufacturing growth slowed in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region on the heels of an August revival. The index of business conditions fell to 8.2 in September from 14.1 in August, slightly higher than the 7.4 forecast. The Philly Fed Index is considered a good gauge of what to expect when the important
Purchasing Managers' Index
) is reported early next month.
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Breadth was negative on active volume.
New York Stock Exchange: 1,021 advancers, 1,604 decliners, 630 million shares. 33 new 52-week highs, 95 new lows.
Nasdaq Stock Market: 1,401 advancers, 2,254 decliners, 896.9 million shares. 46 new highs, 101 new lows.
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Most Active Stocks
NYSE Most Actives
- Sprint PCS (PCS) : 14.5 million shares.
Lucent (LU) : 13.5 million shares.
AT&T (T) - Get Report: 13.3 million shares.
Nasdaq Most Actives
- Ericsson (ERICY) 32.3 million shares.
Cisco (CSCO) - Get Report: 28.6 million shares.
Intel (INTC) - Get Report: 25.2 million shares.
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Financials were falling lower in the wake of Morgan Stanley's disappointing earnings report. The
American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index
was off 3.6%, while the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange KBW/Bank Index
was losing 2.3%.
Telecom stocks were seeing mixed action. Ericsson was sliding 6.9%, while
was off 4.9%. A weak outlook from
yesterday sparked weakness in telecom and lead to a selloff in Europe. The
Nasdaq Telecommunications Index
was off a modest 0.8%.
Crude oil futures eased a bit on the
New York Mercantile Exchange
after presidential candidate Al Gore proposed that oil be released from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to curb prices. Oil stocks were taking a breather with the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Sector Index
down 1.1% and the
American Stock Exchange Oil & Gas Index
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Bonds are little changed on little news. Oil, which has been the main influence on bond prices in the last several sessions, is modestly weaker.
Alan Greenspan did not address the economy or monetary policy, and the only major economic report, the
Philadelphia Fed Index
) for September, was more or less in line with expectations. It fell to 8.2 in September from 14.1 in August, indicating slower growth in the manufacturing sector.
Later in the session, the Treasury Department will conduct its latest
buyback, targeting $1.5 billion of 30-year bonds issued between 1987 and 1991.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury note lately was down 1/32 to 98 29/32, yielding 5.9%.
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European markets were lower. In London, the
was off 80.7 to 6199.2. The French
lost 150.66 to 6254.77, and the German
was sliding 113.32 to 6651.91.
Asian markets ended lower.
index shed 147.26 to close at 16,311.05.
The euro managed to hit another low against the dollar, hitting 0.8474 during Asian trading. It was lately trading highter at $0.8587. The greenback also slid against the yen recently to fetch 106.63. For more on currenices, see the
separate coverage written by
index slid 501.17, or 3.2%, to close at 15,164.45 largely due to shares of
Pacific Century Cyberworks
getting pummeled. PCCW fell HK$1.60, or a whopping 14.9%, to 9.15 ($1.17) after shares were suspended midday Wednesday at HK$10.75. Korea's
index shed 10.09, or 1.7%, to close at 595.99
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