Be it the finish line or the bottom-line, it all comes down to Florida.

The Presidential election remains a jump ball, with fewer than 1,800 votes separating George W. Bush and Al Gore in Florida, which, by law, must recount the ballots when the tallies are that close. As a result, no decisive winner will be decided until maybe tomorrow afternoon, when the recount is completed.

Wall Street was handcuffed by uncertainty, but leaned towards sectors that are seen as favorable if Bush wins the election. Volume remained tepid for the second-straight day. Eyes were split between the trading screen and the television screen. Breaking news was scarce.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was last up 22 to 10,975, helped out by advances in healthcare and pharmaceutical companies.

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

and

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

added a combined 38 to the Dow's plus side. Of course, those gains were offset by big losses in financials

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

and

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

.

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"A Bush election would be favorable to business and he has expressed concern over the potential cost of regulating healthcare," said Roberta Goodman, managed care analyst for

Merrill Lynch

. "That would be a positive for healthcare stocks."

As a result of this view -- which tends to be quite prevalent among traders of pharmaceutical and healthcare names -- those stocks were having a good day, as the market reacted to Bush's Floridian edge over Gore. The

S&P Health Care Index

rose 2.7%, while the

American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index

rose 2.9%.

Another reason for the Bush favoritism: "Recounts very rarely end up reversing the initial decision," said Goodman.

The 'Soft Parade

Over on the Nasdaq,

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

modest gain and the

Nasdaq Composite Index's

drop of 100 to 3315 were making the most waves.

Early in the morning, Microsoft jumped out of the gate, hitting a session high of $72.38, a gain of $1.88 from where it closed yesterday. A trio of factors helped the stock. One,

Lehman Brothers

upped the company's price target to $115. Two, the market has a prevailing bias that a Bush presidency would be favorable for Microsoft and its antitrust dispute with the government. And last, no matter who gets elected president, the

Justice Department

will likely be overhauled and that could certainly disrupt the proceedings against the company.

As a result, the company flew out of the opening bell, but it seems that a certain amount of reticence has set in as other large-cap techs have pulled their caps down a little lower. Semiconductors, dot-coms and boxmakers were taking big hits. The

Morgan Stanley High-Technology 35 Index

, a collection of some of the biggest technology names and a good bellwether for movement in widely-held stocks, was off 3.3%.

Overall, market volume was moderate to light. On the

New York Stock Exchange

, where winners took a slight edge on losers, volume was 479 million. By midday, 600 million shares have usually traded, since fall and summer were extremely active. On the

Nasdaq Stock Market

, where losers were handily beating winners, 841 million shares traded. Usual midday volume tops 1 billion.

Whoa, Nellie!

With Florida up in the air, analysts have sent out briefings to help people react. Many are advocating that investors take a wait-and-see approach, which makes sense considering how close both the presidential election is and the balance of power in the Senate. The House favors Republicans by a slim margin.

Many major news outlets have announced that the balance of power in the Senate is even, with both parties having 50 Senators. This means that if Bush wins, then Dick Cheney, as Vice President, would cast the deciding vote in the event of a deadlock. But if Gore wins, then Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who won his re-election yesterday, would become Vice President and his seat would be vacated, leaving Gov. John Rowland, the Republican leader of Connecticut to fill his vacant seat with a Republican, thereby tipping the balance 51 to 49 in favor of the Republicans.

"We believe other recounts are likely," wrote Kim Wallace of

Lehman Brothers

. "These procedures will affect the White House and possibly Congress. It could be until later this week before the final results are known. While these are uncertain hours, this type of suspense should not concern markets."

And many of Wallace's peers agree.

"Uncertainty is the message, and we're a little surprised the markets haven't been more concerned," wrote

International Strategy & Investment's

analyst duo, Tom Gallagher and Andy Laperriere. "As investors learn a little more about Electoral College rules, they could get more nervous."

Market Internals

Volume was far thinner than usual, while losers dominated the four-lettered stocks on the 'Daq.

New York Stock Exchange: 1,396 advancers, 1,166 decliners, 462 million shares. 69 new 52-week highs, 19 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 1,361 advancers, 2,090 decliners, 815 million shares. 41 new highs, 53 new lows.

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Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

Nasdaq Most Actives

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Sector Watch

Drugs, healthcare, chemicals, biotechs -- anything even remotely hospital-related got a boost as industries that a Bush presidency favors did better than their pro-Gore counterparts.

The

S&P Chemical Index

rose 2.3%, while the

American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index

rose 2.9%.

Meanwhile, financials took a hit. The

American Stock Exchange Securities Broker/Dealer Index

fell 3.3%, while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

fell 2.2%.

Over in tech, the predominant color was red and a lot of big names got hit hard. The

Morgan Stanley High-Technology 35 Index

, a big indicator of how the large-cap tech issues fare, fell 3.2%. The semiconductors, boxmakers and dot com stocks also fell precipitously. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

fell 3.8%, while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Sector

fell 3.5%.

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Bonds/Economy

The bond market is very much concerned by the Presidential impasse and is moving erratically. Bush is seen as a negative for bonds while a Gore victory would probably have a positive effect. Yesterday the market lost ground ahead of the election and so far it is sliding again.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note is at 99, off 4/32, to yield 5.887%.

The 30-year

Treasury bond is unchanged at 104 29/32, yielding 5.897%.

Bond prices have slipped sharply over the past few days, albeit on light volume, and some say they have been attempting to account for a Bush win ahead of time. Bush is seen as negative for bonds, while a Gore victory would probably have a positive effect. Yesterday, the market lost ground ahead of the election, and so far, it is sliding again.

TheStreet.com

recently took a close look at how the bond market should

respond to the election .

A few pieces of economic data came out this morning, including the

Mortgage Applications Survey

and

import price

index.

The Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ended Nov. 3 fell to 651.2 from 654.6 in the previous week. The Purchase Index rose to 310.5 from 304.6. The import price index for October, meanwhile, fell 0.5% after a rise of 1.2% in September. The export price index slipped 0.1% after a rise of 0.5% in the prior month.

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International

European markets were mixed in late action on uncertainty over the outcome of U.S. presidential elections. Volume, not surprisingly, was thin.

After posting a swift 48-point gain in early trading, the

FTSE 100

ended up just 10.50 at 6477.40. On the Continent, the

CAC-40

in Paris was down 50.04 at 6336.03 and the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was 47.95 lower at 7028.33.

The euro, shrugging off recent efforts by the European Central Bank to support the beleaguered currency, was lately slipping to $0.8517.

Asian

equity markets ended higher Wednesday, as the outcome of U.S. presidential election remained uncertain. While Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all rose, Hong Kong, which closes later, finished lower.

In Tokyo, the

Nikkei 225

closed up 59.3 points, or 0.4%, at 15,399.6. In Tokyo currency trading, the dollar slipped about 0.42 to 107.04 yen. The dollar was lately trading higher at 107.39 yen.

Taiwan's

TWSE

index continued its rally from Monday, surging 190.2, or 3.2%, to 6067.9. Taiwanese stocks jumped after

Morgan Stanley Capital International

increased the country's weighting for the country in its indices. Chipmaker

United Microelectronics

(UMC) - Get Report

rose 2.3% to TWD$67.00 ($2.08).

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index fell 166.7, or 1.1%, to close at 15,654.1

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