NEW YORK -- Stocks slumped today, losing early record-setting gains that gave the Dow industrials a temporary boost near the 9,000-mark.
Dow falls 31.64
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.64 points to close at 8,872.80, reversing directions after a morning surge pushed it up nearly 55 points. The index of blue chip stocks has been unable to hold on to its gains since Friday, when it ended a weeklong climb of 300 points to close at 8,906.43.
Decliners led advancers by a narrow 11-to-10 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1,395 up, 1,530 down and 562 unchanged. NYSE volume was 663.22 million shares, vs. 605.023 million yesterday.
Broad market indexes were mixed. The technology-laden Nasdaq index rose 12.07 to 1,824.51, and the Russell 2000 index of small stocks rose 0.88 to 477.14 -- both new records.
But the Standard & Poor's 500 list fell 3.73 to 1,101.92, the NYSE composite index fell 2.20 to 572.76, and the American Stock Exchange composite index sagged 1.80 to 736.89.
The price of the Treasury's main 30-year bond was off 25/32 point, or $7.81 per $1,000 in face value, by late afternoon, while its yield rose to 5.93 percent from 5.88 percent late yesterday. Prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Computer selling of stocks followed a decline in bonds, dragged down by a disappointing auction of five-year Treasury notes and a surprise jolt in home sales. Technology issues held on to their gains, sending the Nasdaq composite index to a new high.
The early rise followed a report confirming investors' contention that inflation remains in check.
The Commerce Department said today that orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell in February for the third time in five months. Analysts believe the numbers reflect the fallout from recessionary conditions in Asia.
Although Asian financial woes are expected to slow U.S. growth by as much as 1 percentage point this year, much of the Asian fallout has boosted the U.S. economy. As a result of investors fleeing Asia and snapping up U.S. securities, interest rates have fallen.
That in turn has stimulated retail and home sales. The Dow backed down somewhat after the National Association of Realtors reported today that home sales soared 8.7 percent to a new record last month. Analysts had expected an increase of less than 1 percent. The report tempered investors' sanguine inflation outlook, depressing the price of inflation-wary bonds.
Overseas, Tokyo's Nikkei stock average rose 0.3 percent, Frankfurt's DAX index climbed 1.4 percent and London's FT-SE 100 edged up 0.1 percent.