Following more bad headlines about the economy, the major stock market indices were mixed this afternoon.
After see-sawing earlier in the morning, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average was lately up 62 points to 9861, while the
Nasdaq Composite Index was recently up 3 to 1823.
Chicago Purchasing Managers Index dropped more than 8 points to 35, its lowest level since March, 1982. The index measures the health of the manufacturing sector, considered to be the most beleaguered area of the U.S. economy. Today's number shows still more weakness on that front.
Economic news aside, traders said that the market was reacting to the fact that today is the final day of the first quarter. "We're seeing a push-pull at the end of the quarter," said Bob Basel, director of listed trading at
Salomon Smith Barney
. "Institutional investors are selling stocks and window dressing those that they want to show in their portfolios." Basel said that today's reaction to economic news was muted.
At the end of a quarter, institutional investors typically tidy up their portfolios to improve their appearance for presentation to clients or shareholders, a practice referred to as window dressing. As a result, portfolio managers will abandon risky positions and revert to safer stocks instead. And they'll put cash sitting on the sidelines back into the stock market.
Today's action comes on the heels of steep losses in the technology sector. A bevy of big-cap tech stocks hit 52-week lows yesterday, and the
Nasdaq Composite Index slipped to a new 29-month low. After two days of selling, on Wednesday and Thursday, the index lost 7.7%. The blue-chip
Dow fell 1.6% Wednesday, but edged higher yesterday.
After the closing bell yesterday, chipmaker
reported earnings that beat consensus estimates. But amid slowing sales, the stock fell 11% to $40.28 today. Indeed, Wall Street is preparing for an onslaught of preannouncements likely to come from tech companies next week. Certainly, the earnings picture could not get much worse.
The best performing stocks on the
S&P 500 for the quarter were down today, due most likely to profit taking.
Advanced Micro Devices
shed 5.1% to $26.85,
decreased 0.1% to $21.86,
dropped 4.8% to $9.19,
shed 3.7% to $21.70, and
slid 4.8% to $9.31.
In other reports today,
personal and income consumption numbers for February, released at 8:30 a.m. EST, came in very close to expectations. Personal income growth came in at 0.4%, while spending increased 0.3%. Economists were expecting the numbers to be 0.3% each, compared to 0.6% for income and 0.7% for consumption in January.
University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, out earlier this morning, confirmed a March spike in consumer optimism revealed by Tuesday's consumer confidence index. The index, which measures consumers' attitudes on the economy, rose to 91.5 from 90.6 in February.
Leading the Dow higher were shares of
, up 5.4% to $41.07. According to a report in
is rumored to be courting the financial giant.
gained 0.02% to $44.71.
gained 13.5% to $13.05, after it called off its planned $3.2 billion merger with meat packing firm
. In recent trading, IBP plunged 30.7% to $15.80.
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European markets scratched up modest gains today. London's
, still trading near two-year lows, was lifted by gains in blue-chips. The FTSE rose 45 points, or 0.8%, to 5634. Across the channel, the Paris
increased 22.5, or 0.4%, to 5180 and Frankfurt's
-- still trading -- was down 25, or 0.4%, to 5855.
The euro was lately trading at $0.8847.
Asian markets closed mixed. Adding to a 5% loss Thursday, Tokyo's
slipped another 0.6% overnight. The key index rose in early trading, as investors bet that end-of-the-quarter window dressing would give stocks a lift. But when stocks failed to rally, investors began to sell their holdings. The Nikkei closed down 72.7 points to 12,999.7. Hong Kong's
rose overnight, however, after hitting a new 17-month low Thursday. The index closed up 82.8, or 0.7%, to 12,760.6
The dollar was trading at 125.1 yen.
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