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FINANCIAL MARKETS

Dow Is Off for 3rd Day; Dollar Rises

March 28, 1998|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

U.S. stocks closed mixed Friday, with blue chips lower for a third consecutive day, as profit-taking continued amid growing jitters.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 50.81 points, or 0.6%, to 8,796.08. For the week the Dow was off 110.35 points, or 1.2%, after hitting a record high of 8,906.43 the previous Friday.

In Tokyo, meanwhile, Japanese stocks sank again and the dollar jumped against the yen amid signs that Japan's banking sector remains in critical condition. Doubts about the government's willingness to prop up the stumbling economy also weighed on the yen.

On Wall Street the market was weak from the opening on Friday, although trading volume declined to the lowest since mid-March.

Losers topped winners by 16 to 13 on the Big Board, while winners had a slight edge on Nasdaq.

Still, most major indexes fell for the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 was off 0.5% to 1,095.44. The Nasdaq composite eased 0.3% to 1,823.62, although it gained 1.9% for the week.

Analysts noted that investors appeared to be chipping away all week at blue chips, which have led the market this quarter. Smaller stocks, by contrast, were more in demand, with the Russell 2,000 index of smaller issues off just 0.1% on Friday and up 0.6% for the week.

Year-to-date the Russell is up 9.2%; the S&P 500 is up 12.9%.

Worries about first-quarter earnings are dogging big-name stocks. This week, companies including toy giant Hasbro, software firm Adobe Systems and food giant Tyson Foods warned of weak earnings in the near-term--despite the strong U.S. economy.

Given the market's rise this year, "We have to have earnings to justify the move," said Chad Fleischman, money manager at Columbia Management in Portland, Ore.

Most companies will begin to report first-quarter results in about two weeks.

Meanwhile on Friday, some analysts expressed concern that the Federal Reserve Board, at its regular meeting on Tuesday, might indicate that it is leaning toward tightening credit because of the economy's strength.

But the bond market didn't appear jittery. In fact, yields eased a bit as the dollar strengthened. The 30-year Treasury bond yield slipped to 5.96% from 5.97% on Thursday, though it was up from 5.88% a week earlier.

The dollar ended at 130.33 yen in New York, up 2.04 yen. Standard & Poor's cut its credit ratings on four major Japanese banks, prompting talk that some Japanese financial institutions might go bankrupt in the coming weeks.

The Nikkei-225 stock index fell 241.36 points, or 1.4%, to 16,739.26.

Among Friday's highlights:

* Oil stocks slid as crude prices eased a bit, and ahead of Monday's meeting by major oil-producing countries. There are doubts that plans to cut production will stick.

Mobil dropped $1.31 to $77.19, Atlantic Richfield fell $1.31 to $78.69 and Chevron lost $1.31 to $83.

* Gold stocks continued to rebound with the metal's price. ASA gained $1.13 to $23.19 and Newmont Gold rose $1.13 to $32.13.

* Retail issues were strong on signs of healthy consumer spending. Dayton Hudson rose $1 to $87.69 and J.C. Penney gained $2 to $74.56.

* In the new issues market Columbia Sportswear surged $3.94 to $21.94 in its public debut. But Earthshell, which made its debut earlier in the week, continued to sink, losing $1.63 to $16.63.

* Among other consumer issues, McDonald's jumped $2 to $57.38 in the wake of its announcement Thursday of plans to reorganize its struggling U.S. operations. Also, Pfizer rose $1.38 to $95.75. Its impotence drug, Viagra, gained federal approval on Friday, as expected.

* FPA Medical Management fell $1.94 to $16.69. The physician-practice management company's new chief, Stephen Dresnick, said he will slow its expansion through acquisitions.

*

Market Roundup, D4

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