Closing Market Report

Star-Bulletin news services

Stocks mixed ahead
of economic reports

NEW YORK >> Stocks closed mixed on Wall Street yesterday, with blue-chip shares edging lower as investors found little reason to recommit to the market before the beginning of the corporate earnings season and ahead of two key economic indicators due out this week.

Cash flowing in to mutual funds helped prop up some sectors of the market, including technology shares, but on the whole, investors were holding back ahead of reports today on December sales for major retailers and another report tomorrow on December employment.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 9.63, or 0.1 percent, at 10,529.03.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 2.66, or 0.2 percent, to 1,126.33, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 20.31, or 1 percent, to 2,077.68

Advancing issues just outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was 2.37 billion shares, above the 2.01 billion traded Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index was up 4.73 at 574.62. The NYSE composite index lost 15.85, or 0.2 percent, to 6,525.30. The American Stock Exchange composite index fell 8.86, or 0.7 percent, to 1,185.58.

The Treasury's two-year note was unchanged at 100 332, with its yield rising 1 basis point to 1.83 percent. The 10-year note gained 1/32 to 99 2832, with its yield off 1 basis point to 4.27 percent.

"This is a fairly mild consolidation," said Russ Koesterich, U.S. equity strategist at State Street Corp. in Boston. "We've had a good run since December, and the market needs some time to digest that ahead of the earnings season, which really gets under way in the next week or two."

Part of the weakness in blue-chip shares yesterday was attributed to profit-taking following a consistent run-up in blue-chip shares since late November, when the Dow Jones industrial average was hovering just above 9,600.

Technology shares went against the downward trend, gaining some ground on a bullish analyst report on Intel Corp. that lent support to semiconductor shares. Intel rose $1.09 to $33.99.

Some skittishness about the upcoming corporate earnings season was evident in the market yesterday as investors pushed the shares of Dow component Alcoa Inc. down 29 cents at $38.20 ahead of the company's earnings report today

Darden Restaurants Inc. plunged $1.88 to $19.00 after the Orlando, Fla.-based restaurant company reported sharply lower December sales at its Red Lobster unit. The company also said its president had resigned.

Biotechnology company Monsanto Co. was up $1.09 at $29.20 after reporting first-quarter operating earnings of 4 cents per share, beating Wall Street estimates of a penny per share.

Duke Energy Corp. jumped $1.17 to $21.20 after announcing it would continue paying a quarterly dividend. Wall Street analysts had said Tuesday they expected the energy company to slash its dividend as it cuts back on its debt load.

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