Tuesday's Market: Dow Ends Sharply Higher Ahead of Expected Fed Rate Cut

But the Nasdaq was little changed as volume was thin and breadth was positive.
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Investors were tapping their feet, waiting for the green light to get in on some of the trading action.

And instead of waiting for tomorrow's expected announcement from the

Federal Open Market Committee meeting, some were too impatient, rewarding the

Dow Jones Industrial Average with triple-digit gains.

From the looks of where the tech-heavy

Nasdaq Composite Index ended the day, it was looking unloved. That's not exactly true, but the index didn't have a lot to attract investors' attention. With no real leadership, it spent much of the day toeing the flatline, and mainly from the downside.

Tomorrow should start out slow, with investors sitting on the sidelines ahead of the afternoon announcement the

Fed is expected to make on interest-rate cuts. While another 50 basis-point cut was almost taken for granted when the Fed made the first cut this month, lately there's been talk that there will be a cut of only 25 basis points.

Analysts say if the cut is 25, or one quarter of a percentage point, the market will sell on the news. Most likely a half percentage-point, or 50 basis-point cut will buoy the market, which some say has already been priced in. And if the Fed decides a cut larger than 50 points is needed, instead of providing comfort to the market, could scare the bejezus out of it.

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But, today, consumer products blue-chip

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

was the Dow's shining star. Yesterday, the stock fell ahead of its earnings announcement that came out this morning. The company, which makes Crest toothpaste and Tide detergent, posted second-quarter earnings

a penny better than estimates, adding that upcoming earnings will be in line with estimates. The stock was up 6.4% to $71.10.

Other blue-chips enjoying the green glow of the upside were chemical company

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

and Post-It note and Scotch tape maker

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

.

Merger partners

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

and

Honeywell

(HON) - Get Report

floated higher after Honeywell's crummy earnings earlier in the week brought them down a bit.

Elsewhere,

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

was the most actively traded stock on the

Big Board after announcing earnings that

beat estimates, but also said that

slower-than-expected market growth will keep its upcoming results at year-ago levels.

The mobile phone industry has been hit hard over the past week with

Ericsson

(ERICY)

saying that it was getting out of manufacturing its handsets altogether.

Meanwhile on the Nasdaq,

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Report

, the most actively traded stock on the Comp. It was recovering some of what it lost after it was reported over the weekend that its CEO hadn't expected the last quarter to be as difficult as it was. The stock was up 2% to $38.

The big loser in the tech sector was network storage equipment maker

Brocade Communications

(BRCD)

, which was knocked down 6.1% to $98.50 after

Goldman Sachs'

Laura Conigiliaro said the stock was not likely to deliver the same upside surprises it has in the past.

Elsewhere on the Comp,

InfoSpace

(INSP) - Get Report

was one of the most actively traded stocks today after its post-close announcement last night of

better-than-expected earnings, but countered with the warning that the slowing U.S. economy would strong-arm the Web content syndication company into the red in 2001. The stock was down 6.3% to $5.63.

Market Internals

Breadth was positive on active volume.

New York Stock Exchange: 1,865 advancers, 1,238 decliners, 1.146 billion shares. 179 new 52-week highs, 4 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market: 2,162 advancers, 1,638 decliners, 2.037 billion shares. 122 new highs, 19 new lows.

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Most Active Stocks

NYSE Most Actives

  • Nokia: 41 million shares.
  • AT&T (T) - Get Report: 27.5 million shares.
  • AOL-Time Warner (AOL) : 22.5 million shares.

Nasdaq Most Actives

  • Cisco: 73.6 million shares.
  • Intel: 60 million shares.
  • Infospace: 41.8 million shares.

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Sector Watch

Chipmakers bounced today with help from such components as Intel,

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

and

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

. In the past couple weeks, the sector's had little to celebrate as telecom and PC-making companies have been announcing they are reducing inventory.

The economy isn't looking any better, but cyclicals -- that typically do better when the economy is on an upswing -- rallied today. The

Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index

rose 2%, while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Forest &Paper Products Index

jumped 2.6%.

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Bonds/Economy

The

FOMC meeting is in session and a decision on ongoing monetary policy should be announced by tomorrow afternoon. The weekly store sales data released earlier today showed modest improvement and retailers concluded a positive month. But any second-guessing among fed committee members about interest rate corrections may have been eliminated by the plunge in consumer confidence, which fell to a four-year low. Fed chairman

Greenspan has been watching this gauge closely, and its latest dip has sent traders in a flurry of buying. The long bond is now up by more than a point.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury notelately was up 20/32 to 103 27/32, yielding 5.231%.

In economic news, the

BTM-UBSW Weekly Chain Store Sales Index

(

definition |

chart ), which is gathered from data submitted by 95 retailers across the country, rose by 0.6% in the week ending Jan.27 after the drop of 0.7% the previous week. The performance was helped by continued discounting of leftover inventory from the holiday season, and the mix of items sold was again primarily from electronics, home improvement items, hardware and toys. The year-to-year average of the index rose to 3.9% from 3.1% as recorded during the week ending Jan.20.

The

Consumer Confidence Index

(

definition |

chart |

source

) sank to a four-year low with the number for January coming in at 114.4, its lowest reading since Dec.1996. It was also its fourth consecutive decrease and the trend bolsters the case for aggressive easing by the Fed.

The

Redbook Retail Average

(

definition |

chart ) found January sales after four weeks to be 2.2% ahead of December and 3.3% ahead of last January. The average's target is being met due to robust sales at department stores that have benefited from the markdown of clearance goods. While discount stores slipped in sales during the fourth week, their performance for the month has been steady.

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International

Major European markets were mixed at the closing bell.

London's

FTSE

erased earlier weakness and ended the day up 18 to 6335. Across the channel, Paris'

CAC-40

rose 30 to 5917. Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

was off 12 to 6739.

The dollar hit a one-month high against the euro yesterday. The euro has been slowly gaining against the U.S. dollar amid expectations of a slowing domestic economy. It was trading at $0.9264.

Asian markets showed mixed weakness overnight.

Tokyo investors took some profits ahead of the U.S. Fed meeting after rallying smartly during the previous session. The key

Nikkei 225

closed down 18.63, or 0.13%, to 13,826.65.

Hong Kong stocks churned out some hefty losses due to interest rate jitters and concern over telecom valuations, and the key

Hang Seng

closed down 206.75 points, or 1.28%, to 15,893.07.

The greenback was falling against the yen, trading at 115.74 yen.

For more on world stock markets, check out

TheStreet.com's

global indices information.

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