Stocks record first major loss of 2006
NEW YORK » Stocks posted their first noteworthy losses of 2006 yesterday as analyst downgrades of two Dow Jones industrials and rising oil prices prompted investors to take profits one session after the major indexes reached new multiyear highs.
Analysts said the Coca-Cola Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. could face difficulties in 2006 as the economy slows and consumers limit their spending -- both of which could have a much broader impact on stocks as the year goes on.
Oil prices initially rose, deepening stocks' losses, but ultimately lost ground and settled at $63.94, unchanged from the previous session, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The volatility was prompted by the breakdown of talks with Iran over its restarted nuclear research program.
Yet despite the losses and lingering uncertainties, analysts said Wall Street's January rally likely would continue.
"You're seeing some selling now, some consolidation maybe, but I'd be cautious of that. The market's been very resilient," said Brian Williamson, equity trader at the Boston Company Asset Management. "Investors have been very quick to buy if they get a little good news."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 81.08, or 0.73 percent, to 10,962.36.
Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8.12, or 0.63 percent, to 1,286.06, and the Nasdaq composite index dropped 14.67, or 0.63 percent, to 2,316.69.
Bonds climbed on news of the narrowing trade gap, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.41 percent from 4.45 percent late Wednesday. The dollar fell against most major currencies, while gold prices rose.
A slight rise in unemployment claims, fewer than Wall Street had expected, failed to encourage investors. The Labor Department said the number of new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 17,000 last week to 309,000, lower than 24,000 gain economists expected.
With the economic data still strong and corporate profits still expected to remain strong as fourth-quarter earnings season begins in earnest next week, analysts saw the day's losses as an isolated occurrence, rather than a halt to the January rally.
"I think it's relatively healthy. Nothing goes straight up. We know that. There needs to be a little consolidation before you can go higher," said Joseph Keating, chief investment officer at First American Asset Management.