You know it's a dull day in the markets when normally brutish traders on the floor of the
New York Stock Exchange
start caroling in the middle of the trading day.
Actually, caroling on Christmas Eve is an NYSE tradition stretching back to the 1920s--and it, like that other great pre-holiday tradition, light volume and a slight upturn, were upheld to the letter today. The major indices ambled gently upwards in the absence of major news: The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
climbed 33.83 to 6522.85 on volume of 152 million shares, and the
rose 8.11 to 1287.61. The
moved up 4.08 to 751.03, while the
index of small-cap issues stayed rock-steady, twitching up .45 to 355.87.
Traders on the Big Board seemed to struggle for reasons for even this anemic level of activity. Among today's most active NYSE stocks were
(AXP:NYSE). Motorola's 1 1/2 point climb to 60 3/8 was precipitated by
analyst Todd Koffman's naming the company his "best idea" for 1997.
AT&T gained 1 1/2 to 41 3/8, apparently as a result of today's
Wall Street Journal
profile of its new president, former printer John Walter. The Street's relief that Walter was doing something--anything--appeared to overwhelm the fact that the article occasionally portrayed Walter in a somewhat unflattering light, prone to impetuous action and episodic crying.
And American Express's 4.8% climb, from 2 3/4 to 59 5/8, seems to have been driven by a rumor, first reported on
, that the company was collecting analysts' home phone numbers, not to favor them with holiday greetings from Harvey Golub but in anticipation of a major announcement.
did note that no analyst they spoke with confirmed the rumor.
Other NYSE movers included
(CPQ:NYSE), up 2 1/8 to 74 3/4 participating in a general rally among PC manufacturers;
(MO:NYSE), up 112 1/8 to 114 1/2 as big-caps remained in favor; and
(KCS:NYSE), soaring from 27 3/4 to 37 5/8 on news of the conclusion of its litigation with
FAC Realty Trust
(FAC:NYSE) dropped 10%, falling 3/4 to 6 3/4 on news of a management change.
As usual, the Nasdaq provided the bulk of the day's limited store of excitement, even though its usual monopoly on silliness was broken. Among the day's big Nasdaq gainers was Year-2000-software-play
(ZITL:Nasdaq). Its stock bounced around maniacally over the course of the day, at one point up as many as 4 1/2 points, before closing up 1 7/8 at 47 5/16. The wild ride was attributed to simultaneous rumors of a short squeeze and a potential investment by hedge fund czar and marijuana-legalization advocate
Fears of ice melting in Florida's tropical climate did not stop shares of the
(PUCK:Nasdaq) IPO from gaining 35% on their first day of trading; they closed at 17.
(WCOM:Nasdaq), the telecommunications service company, climbed 5/8 to 24 on exceptionally heavy volume, following a bullish report from
and persistent though ambiguous takeover rumors.
(DELL:Nasdaq) rose 2 3/8 to 54 along with the other box makers, and
La Jolla Pharmaceuticals
(LJPC:Nasdaq) climbed nearly 34%, up 1 7/16 to 5 3/4 as news of progress in development of its lupus drug spread.
All was not healthy in the world of development-stage pharmaceutical companies.
(MATX:Nasdaq) plummeted 2 1/2 to 6 1/8 after receiving an FDA letter identifying problems in the approval process for their new drug for genital warts. Other Nasdaq disappointments included
(DAYR:Nasdaq). It preannounced disappointing second-quarter results, sending its shares down 4 5/8 to 19 1/4. The preannouncement parade also hit
(DGII:Nasdaq), whose announcement of waning earnings sent its shares into a tailspin, down 3 3/4 to 8 7/8. And
(TUTR:Nasdaq) found itself in a similar predicament; its preannouncement of disappointing fourth quarter results sent its stock down 6 3/4 to 10 1/2.
While rumors of singing at Nasdaq desks around the country may have been exaggerated, all is now quiet on Wall Street--Quotrons dark, phones silent, tickers shut down. Break out the wassail!
By Ravi Desai