Closing Market Report

Star-Bulletin news services

Stocks mixed after
Bush unveils plan

By Amy Baldwin
Associated Press

NEW YORK >> Wall Street had little reaction today to President Bush's proposal to cut taxes, as investors collected some profits from the market's big three-day advance and left stocks narrowly mixed.

Analysts said the market had already factored in the proposed cuts during its rally. Downbeat outlooks from retailers and a disappointing report on factory orders also pressured stocks.

"The market had demonstrated such significant strength in the prior days that a more muted response (to the tax proposal) was probably not surprising. It also remains to be seen how much of the package will be passed by Congress and when," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist and senior market strategist at Banc of America Capital Management. "But the potential impact on the economy could be quite positive."

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 32.98, or 0.4 percent, at 8,740.59, according to preliminary calculations.

Analysts said the Dow's slippage was mostly due to investors cashing in profits following yesterday's 171-point gain and Thursday's 265-point rally. Those gains gave the Dow its best ever performance for the first three trading days of a new year.

The broader market's gauges were mixed. The Nasdaq composite index rose 10.25, or 0.7 percent, to 1,431.57. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.08, or 0.7 percent, to 922.93.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers nearly 9 to 5 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was moderate.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, fell 3.05, or 0.8 percent, to 393.95. The NYSE composite index fell 4.82 to 490.82. The American Stock Exchange sank 10.88 to 828.73.

Bush unveiled a proposal to slash taxes by $674 billion over 10 years. The two major elements of his proposal called for the total elimination of the federal tax investors pay on their stock dividends and an immediate acceleration -- retroactive to Jan. 1 -- of the tax cuts previously scheduled to take effect in 2004 and 2006.

The Bush administration and much of Wall Street believe lower tax rates will spur investors to invest more money and prompt consumers to increase their buying.

"That is going to bolster support for the market," said Chris Johnson, manager of quantitative analysis at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, of the impending tax cut proposal.

The market was uneasy about a report from the Commerce Department that orders to U.S. factories fell by 0.8 percent in November from the previous month, greater than the 0.6 percent decrease analysts were forecasting.

And the retailing sector was down on pessimistic earnings outlooks. Gymboree fell $1.98 to $13.92 and Tiffany declined 43 cents to $25.09 after each company lowered their fourth-quarter estimates. Gymboree also cut its full-year estimate.

Among today's gainers, EMC advanced 67 cents to $7.47.

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