This market has become quite the mighty mesmerist, its powers of obfuscation and mind control so strong that even
pronounced himself "befuddled" on TV this morning.
The strategist who said
yesterday that this remains a "traders' market" had his finger on a pretty obvious pulse. It takes a nimble trading mind to keep up with the gyrations in stocks these days; investors with a longer-term stance might just want to come back when it's over.
Ah, but it's never over, is it? Volatility is embossed and embroidered as the name of this market's game, so this week's action, and today's, can't surprise anyone.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
, doing nothing to resolve poor Biggs' bewilderment, tumbled as much as 89.08 to 9747.31 before 9:50 a.m. EST but then chopped its way higher. The measure lately was down a mere 14 to 9822, paced by a recovery in
. Big Blue(-Chip) traded as low as 170 9/16 earlier but lately was up 3 1/8 to 174 7/16, leading the Dow's gainers.
was off 4 to 1286, but the tech-infused
Nasdaq Composite Index
was up 3 to 2438 behind strength in
Net stocks were stronger, with
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index up 7, or 1.1%, to 635 and
TheStreet.com E-Commerce Index
up 1, or 0.8%, to 113.
continued to make that Blodget guy look good, up 2 7/8 to 142 5/8.
Elsewhere in tech, the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index
was unchanged, the
Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35
was up 0.2% and the
Philadelphia Stock Exchange Computer Box Maker Index
was up 1.4%. Small-caps were firm as well, with the
up 2 to 395.
Warren Epstein, head trader at
Richard A. Rosenblatt
, said he sensed hesitation on the part of his fellow Wall Streeters despite the moderate upswing. "My intuition tells me -- it's a guess -- they probably don't want to go home long into the weekend," he said. "I would think there might be a little skittishness this afternoon.
"You've got first of all the war," Epstein went on. "You've got earnings concerns, I guess. You've got some of the bullish comments by
Abby Joseph Cohen and others -- her target's only 10,300. We're at 9800 already. ... The upside seems to be a little more muted than the possibility for downside right now. And, of course, the breadth continues to be awful."
New York Stock Exchange's
awful breadth lately had decliners outpacing advancers 1,514 to 1,263 on 380 million shares.
Nasdaq Stock Market
losers were leading winners 1,796 to 1,710 on 457 million shares. Negative Nasdaq breadth with the Russell on the plus side strongly suggests that even among small-caps, it's the larger issues running higher.
New 52-week lows were ahead of new highs by 58 to 15 on the Big Board and by 66 to 40 on the Nasdaq.
Meanwhile, bonds had their rally caps on. The benchmark 30-year Treasury was up 15/32 to 95 19/32, its yield easing to 5.55%. (For more on the fixed-income market, see today's early
Carl Bhathena, vice president at
Holland Capital Management
in Chicago, sees hope for equities in continued steady bond performance. "As the long bond is right around 5.50, we think that is the top end of the range that we see," he said. "So there's room to rally here."
Bhathena noted that
last night's mutual-fund flow data from
showed big outflows from equity funds but solid inflows to bond funds. "People are realizing that they're underinvested on the fixed-income front," he said. "They're taking on a more defensive posture."
And they'll need it, Bhathena said, because any rally resulting from lower bond yields likely will be muffled by a "difficult profit environment,
in which top-line gains are rather skimpy."
Friday's Midday Movers
was losing 1 29/32 to 67 7/16, off an earlier low of 65 15/16, after the
Food and Drug Administration
said 28 people have died after taking the company's diabetes drug
. The federal agency is considering tighter restrictions on the drug, made by the company's
extensively about Rezulin and related matters.
was down 2 3/8 to 49 1/2 after announcing it will invest $57 million, or C$87 million, to expand the radial tire operations at its Canadian passenger tire plant in Valleyfield, Quebec. The company said the expansion will increase production capacity by about 40% and add about 400 new jobs.
In other news:
was up 1 1/4, or 9.6%, to 14 1/4 after last night saying it will buy back up to 10% of its outstanding shares.
was down 5 1/16, or 29.8%, to 12 after
downgraded it to market perform from outperform.
Comfort Systems USA
was up 1 15/16, or 14.6%, to 15 3/16 after
Inside Wall Street column said the company may be a takeover target.
was up 2 7/16, or 40.2%, to 8 1/2 after the column quoted Ryan Rauch of
saying the stock has a compelling valuation and that the company is a "prime acquisition target for companies looking to enhance their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts." Finally,
was up 3 7/16, or 21.1%, to 19 7/8 after a bullish mention in the column.
Cort Business Services
, a rental furniture provider, was up 5 15/16, or 31.7%, to 22 1/16 after agreeing to be acquired by members of its management and an investment firm in a deal valued at $453 million, including the assumption of debt. The buyout group will pay $24 in cash and $2.50 in liquidation value of new preferred stock for each share of Cort.
was up 2 3/4, or 25.3%, to 13 11/16 after launching a new auction Web site.
was up 1 15/16, or 21.1%, to 11 1/8 after last night setting a 1 million-share repurchase plan.
was up 3/8 to 9 7/8 on word it's selling its mass-market cigar business to
for $200 million in cash.
was up 4 5/8, or 13.9%, to 38 after the company sold 1.6 million shares and an unidentified shareholder sold 400,000 shares at $33 apiece in a 2 million-share offering.
was down 1 3/4, or 7.6%, to 21 3/8 after last night saying it will temporarily cut 550 production jobs from its 8,500-person workforce. The company said it had been adding to its production crew, expecting significant order increases for delivery. But in the last week, the company said, customers significantly reduced their expected demand.
Kansas City Southern Industries
was up 3, or 6%, to 53 1/8 after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
started coverage with a strong buy and a price target of 61 a share.
5 3/4, or 6.1%, to 100 3/8 after Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upgraded the stock to strong buy from outperform.
was up 1 1/2 to 119 13/16, on pace for a new high, after
upped its price target for the stock to 140 from 120 a share.
was up 7 1/16, or 44.1%, to 23 1/16 after
priced its 3.5 million-share IPO top range at $16 a share. The price range for the offering was raised to $15 to $16 from $12 to $14. Valley Media distributes music and video entertainment recordings
was down 1 15/32, or 21%, to 5 11/16 after last night warning it sees second-half earnings falling below estimates due to weaker revenue. The three-analyst forecast called for third-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, a repeat of the year-ago figure, and fourth-quarter earnings of 16 cents, vs. the year-ago 15 cents.
was down 3 3/8, or 30.2%, to 7 3/4 after last night saying it sees a first-quarter loss of 10 cents to 20 cents a share. The six-analyst prediction called for earnings of 37 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 54 cents. The company blamed a revenue slowdown.
International Microcomputer Software
was down 1 1/16, or 9.7%, to 10 after last night warning of a wider-than-expected third-quarter loss, around 70 cents to 75 cents a share. The company cited continuing investments in its online operations. The two-analyst view called for a loss 11 cents vs. the year-ago profit of 18 cents.
was down 1/2, or 17.4%, to 2 3/8 after last night saying it will record a $3.2 million charge in the third quarter, when it expects to report an operating loss. The charge is related to severance costs for a 13% cut in the company's workforce. The two-analyst forecast called for a quarter loss of 13 cents a share vs. the year-ago loss of 3 cents. Verilink also named Graham Pattison president and chief executive, succeeding Leigh Belden, who is retiring.