Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 10 News List

NYSE treads water while analyzing earnings reports


After some fits and starts, US stock averages ended the week little changed as investors sifted through a flood of earnings reports and economic data and tried to gauge the next move for the market.

The Dow Jones Industrials rose a modest 0.49 percent in the week to Friday to close at 9,721.79, pulling back after surging past 9,800 earlier in the week.

The broad-market Standard and Poor's 500 index edged up just 0.12 percent for the week to 1,039.32.

But the tech-dominated NASDAQ, which has seen the biggest gains in recent weeks, fell back 0.15 percent to 1,912.36.

Tim Smalls, managing director of trading at SG Cowen, said the market was due for a pullback after a spectacular start to October. He noted that the NASDAQ is up 50 percent since March and seven percent in October alone.

"The rally has come so far so fast, it's just profit taking, nothing more than that," he said.

Mace Blicksilver at Marblehead Asset Management said the move to 10,000 for the Dow "is on hold for a little bit."

"I wouldn't be surprised if profit taking lasted another week or so," he added. "While there may not be big down days, I have a feeling it would be very difficult for the market to make any headway next week."

The news over the past week was generally favorable both on the corporate and economic fronts.

US retail sales over the past month were down slightly, but showed strong gains for the past quarter. Housing starts rose. And jobless claims fell, offering more evidence that the sagging labor market is on the mend.

Corporate earnings have been strong, up some 17 percent on average, and despite a few negative surprises, were generally above Wall Street forecasts.

But analysts said most of this news had already been anticipated and priced into the market, leaving little room for further gains.

"Most of the good news is already in the market," said Sung Won Sohn at Wells Fargo Bank, who says the market may continue its trend.

Merrill Lynch chief market analyst Richard McCabe said he sees a short-term pullback looming that could set the stage for the next leg up in the bull market, which is now some seven months old.

"The stock market's continued strong breadth performance after step-by-step gains in the major averages for more than six months suggests that the current cyclical bull market is far from a final peak," McCabe said.

"On a near-to-intermediate-term trend basis, however, the market still appears to face some hurdles that could lead to a countertrend ... That correction, if it occurs, could be deeper than the brief four-to-six percent setbacks that the averages experienced in late September."

Among active shares, Intel, gained 3.7 percent to 31.66 as investors cheered its quarterly earnings report and outlook for the months ahead.

IBM meanwhile slid 3.7 percent to 89.23 after the computer giant met Wall Street profit forecasts but warned about sluggish growth.

Heavy equipment maker Caterpiller slid 2.9 percent to 73.58 after its disappointing earnings report.

Ford, whose quarter loss was narrowed, ended the week with a gain of 3.68 percent at 12.13.

But Internet auction giant eBay plunged 9.26 percent to 54.86 after warning its profits could disappoint.

Bonds fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond rose to 4.388 percent from 4.238 a week earlier, while the yield on the 30-year bond jumped to 5.250 percent from 5.174 percent.

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