Today's Market: Nasdaq Can't Get Satisfaction - TheStreet

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

UBS Warburg

. "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

Westfalia Investments

.

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

Cantor Fitzgerald

. "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

(MWD)

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,

TheStreet.com

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

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

and

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

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,

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

and

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

are up more than 50% (through yesterday's close), while

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

is up more than 20%.

And for investors sick of hearing earnings sob stories, Dow component

3M's

(MMM) - Get Report

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

Hertz

(HRZ)

sped to the top of the

Big Board highfliers list after

Ford

(F) - Get Report

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

deal.

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

(

definition |

chart |

source

) is reported early next month.

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Market Internals

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

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Sector Watch

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

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

was off 4.9%. A weak outlook from

Sprint

(FON)

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

off 1.1%.

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Bonds/Economy

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.

Congressional

testimony by

Fed Chairman

Alan Greenspan did not address the economy or monetary policy, and the only major economic report, the

Philadelphia Fed Index

(

definition |

chart |

source

) 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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International

European markets were lower. In London, the

FTSE

was off 80.7 to 6199.2. The French

CAC-40

lost 150.66 to 6254.77, and the German

DAX

was sliding 113.32 to 6651.91.

Asian markets ended lower.

The

Nikkei 225

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

TheStreet.com

.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index slid 501.17, or 3.2%, to close at 15,164.45 largely due to shares of

Pacific Century Cyberworks

(PCW)

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

Kospi

index shed 10.09, or 1.7%, to close at 595.99

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