Closing Market Report

Star-Bulletin news services

Stock market falls
in cautious trading

By Amy Baldwin
Associated Press

NEW YORK >> Investors grew more cautious today, sending stock prices moderately lower despite better-than-expected profits from Sears and United Technologies.

The declines, which erased an early advance, signaled that investors were pacing themselves and waiting for more earnings results before making any major commitments to stocks. Analysts said investors were also mindful of the ongoing possibility of war with Iraq.

"We have a lot more to go. There is a lot more of the (earnings) reporting season ahead of us. The market is just going to crank its way through the next three or four weeks," said Tony Cecin, director of institutional trading at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis.

Advancing issues still managed a narrow lead over decliners in light volume on the New York Stock Exchange.

After gaining as much as 82.34 earlier, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 25.31, or 0.3 percent, 8,697.87. Yesterday, the Dow dropped 119.44 on a mixed earnings report from Intel and a reduced outlook from DuPont.

Today, the market's broader gauges also retreated. The Nasdaq composite index fell 14.43, or 1 percent, to 1,424.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 3.62, or 0.4 percent, to 914.60. The Russell 2000 index fell 0.65, or 0.2 percent, to 394.88.

The price of the Treasury's 10-year note was down 1/8 point, while its yield rose to 4.08 percent from 4.07 percent late yesterday. The price of two-year Treasury notes was unchanged and their yield held at 1.73 percent.

Analysts said investors were also worried about the possibility of war with Iraq following news today that United Nations inspectors found 11 empty chemical warheads at an ammunition storage area.

While investors were circumspect, analysts said there are reasons for them to be encouraged about the market.

"You are seeing signs of positive momentum in the marketplace," Cecin said. "You are seeing more companies report better numbers even if they continue to be cautious in the near term."

Among today's losers, Microsoft declined 81 cents to $55.46 ahead of its fiscal second-quarter earnings report due out after the close of regular trading. IBM fell $1.54 to $86.05 ahead of its fourth-quarter results also due out later.

But some earnings results helped stave off larger declines. Sears climbed $1.88 to $28.58 after posting fourth-quarter profits that beat analysts' expectations by 20 cents a share.

United Technologies, another Dow stock, soared $1.81 to $66.21 on earnings that exceeded Wall Street's estimates by 2 cents a share.

Japan's Nikkei stock average finished essentially flat, off just 0.03 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 rose 0.3 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent, and Germany's DAX index gained 0.2 percent.

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