Winding down a lousy year for equities, the broader market squeezed out some gains in the broad
S&P 500, while technology stocks were simply squeezed.
Tech stocks faded in the early afternoon. But proving the market isn't completely dead, the
Nasdaq Composite Index managed a mild recovery in the last hour of trading to narrow its losses for the day. Don't be fooled, however, The index is still in position to log its worst one-year performance in history.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 gained 9.26 to 1315.21, a 0.7% rise, thanks to strength in natural gas and energy stocks. The blue-chip
Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 56.88 to 10692.44. Overall, however, players regarded the session as a bit disappointing because the activity wasn't convincing -- and because the market couldn't capitalize on its strong session from Friday when technology stocks roared higher from recent lows.
Fiber optics and tech giants like
, which dropped 4.9% today, were hurting. The second-most active name on the
Nasdaq Stock Market
, which rose 2.3% on nearly 40 million shares. It rose after a see-saw day despite having its rating trimmed to buy from strong buy at
Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown
PC makers can find little respect since it's become clear their sales are trailing off. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index
, which tracked the sector, dropped 2.4%. The
Amex Networking Index
lost 1%. And the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
, which follows the chip sector, fell 1.4%. Buyers retreated from these tech stocks into the safety of drugs, financials, utilities, and especially energy, which got a boost from rising natural gas prices.
"It's not much of an up market," said Doug Myers, vice president of equity trading at
in Atlanta, understating the situation a tad. "There's no urgency to run out and buy technology stocks, so they continue to languish."
One of the most bizarre stories of the day belonged to
, the semiconductor equipment company. The stock closed Friday at $94.19 and during the day dropped to a low of $83.81. It was mired around those levels before bouncing in the last hour, rocketing to a close of $92.50, almost where it started. The stock was mentioned as a top pick by one of
guests around 2:45 p.m. EST, and the stock bounced after that. There's no news out today beyond that, however, and a pair of traders we spoke to hadn't heard anything. What a reminder of how low volume can really touch a stock.
Natural gas closed at its highest prices in 10 years. Heating prices have climbed steadily through what has, so far at least, been a cold winter for much of the country. The
American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index
gained 8.9%, with
rose 13.9% after the company said fourth quarter results were likely to
beat estimates, expected to be reported Jan. 31.
gained 16.7% today, and
-- both exploration and production companies -- jumped 11.7%. The
Dow Jones Utility Average
finished 3.3% higher.
Other energy indices were strong, though they didn't match the strength of natural gas stocks. The
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Sector Index
leapt 5.7% and the
Amex Oil & Gas Index
Can tech delight investors this week?
It would be surprising to see a significant recovery in technology the last few days of this year. Buyers haven't shown much interest in rescuing tech stocks during the year. Save for short-term trading opportunities, buying the dips has been a horrific strategy during the year. Now, with brokerage desks short-staffed during the holiday week, there's less liquidity and less interest from buyers. Right now, the Nasdaq is off 38.7% from the 4069.31 close at the beginning of the year.
Among the weaker names today was
Dow Jones Industrial Average component
, the home improvement retailer. The stock dropped 2.3% after a comment from
retail analyst Dana Telsey said the company was in danger of falling short of her forecast for earnings. Telsey had estimated Home Depot would earn 24 cents a share in the fourth quarter.
Breadth was strong on the Big Board on sluggish volume. It was weak on the Nasdaq on average volume.
New York Stock Exchange: 1,747 advancers, 1,172 decliners, 802.2 million shares. 263 new highs, 94 new lows.
Nasdaq Stock Market: 1,706 advancers, 2,320 decliners, 1.53 billion shares. 103 new highs, 383 new lows.
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Most Active Stocks
NYSE Most Actives
- Lucent Technologies (LU) : 32 million shares.
AT&T (T) - Get Report: 21.4 million shares.
Nortel Networks (NT) : 13.9 million shares.
Nasdaq Most Actives
- WorldCom (WCOM) : 49.8 million shares.
JDS Uniphase: 39.4 million shares.
Cisco (CSCO) - Get Report: 38.3 million shares.
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Ok, so not everybody hates Internet stocks.
reported holiday sales that were way ahead of estimates, and that got the stock running higher today. It gained 5.5%, helping to bolster the beaten-up
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index. Still, the index was off 0.9%.
Retailers were weak. Home improvement retailer
lost 1.7% in sympathy with Telsey's report on Home Depot.
ended down 3.6%. On this day after Christmas, the
S&P Retail Index
finished off 2.1%. The shopping season didn't go as well as people had hoped, and now retailers are running sales as they try to stir up business in this week before the New Year's holiday.
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Treasuries lost a bit of ground on very light activity as the market reacted to movement in the stock market. With no major economic data due this week, bond traders will continue to keep their eyes on stocks.
The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note ended down 10/32 to 105 7/32, yielding 5.056%.
There were economic releases today.
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Markets in London were closed today for
Boxing Day, and other European businesses were also shuttered.
In Hong Kong, the
was closed. In Japan, where economic troubles continue, the
gained 76.24, or 0.55%, to 14007.85. New data out of Japan shows the unemployment rate is rising, while consumer spending is slowing.
The euro was trading at $0.9302. It has been gaining on the dollar recently as perception of the U.S. economy's strength has changed in recent weeks. In contrast, the dollar was recently buying 113.56 yen, a 13-month high for the dollar.
For more information about global markets, see
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