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Mixed Results as PC Sales Worry Investors

September 14, 2000|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Wall Street closed mixed Wednesday, with Nasdaq getting a lift while the Dow industrials edged lower.

In energy trading, crude oil and heating oil futures slid.

In the tech sector, weakness in personal-computer-related stocks was offset by buying elsewhere, driving the Nasdaq composite index up 44.38 points, or 1.2%, to 3,893.89.

But the Dow eased 51.05 points, or 0.5%, to 11,182.18, as J.P. Morgan & Co. slid in profit-taking after its merger with Chase Manhattan Corp. was officially announced.

In the broad market losers edged winners on the New York Stock Exchange, while they were about even on Nasdaq.

Worries about personal computer sales continued to hurt many PC-related stocks.

SCI Systems dropped $11.25 to $44.69 on the NYSE. The world's No. 2 contract manufacturer of electronics said it expects first-quarter sales to be lower than previously estimated. The company said "weakness" in consumer electronics and PC demand could cut earnings per share to 34 cents, compared with an expected 38 cents.

SCI's decline hurt Hewlett-Packard on the NYSE, which lost $6 to $105. As of May, Hewlett-Packard made up 30% of SCI's sales.

Other PC and electronics-component makers slumped. Dell Computer fell $1.19 to $36.25 on Nasdaq and Compaq Computer lost $1.56 to $29.94 on the NYSE.

Also, Intel fell $3.69 to $61.25 on Nasdaq after a Banc of America Securities analyst cut his rating to "market perform" from "strong buy." Last week, a U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst changed his rating to "buy" from "strong buy."

But other major tech stocks fared well. Cisco Systems closed up $2.44 at $61.31 and Sun Microsystems rose $3.88 to $118.19 both on Nasdaq. IBM added $2.69 to $127.69 on the NYSE.

Nortel Networks gained $3.44 to $68 on the NYSE. Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Thomas Astle repeated his "buy" rating on the No. 2 North American phone-equipment maker.

In general, concerns about corporate earnings continued to dog stocks, reflecting worries that the third-quarter numbers due out next month will be soft. The market has fallen into a pattern of rewarding companies that deliver strong profits and outlooks, and punishing those who don't.

Uncertainty on Wall Street in advance of third-quarter results has made many investors reluctant to make any big commitments. Their hesitance has contributed to the recent fluctuations and caused high-tech and blue-chip stocks to keep changing direction.

Sherwin-Williams dropped $1.63 to $22.25 on the NYSE after the paint company said quarterly earnings would not meet Wall Street expectations because of higher raw material costs and tough competition.

"We're still half a month away from actual earnings season, but we've already had key reports from companies like DuPont saying it will be down. The market has not taken that news well," said Ricky Harrington, a senior vice president at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, N.C. "It's somewhat subjective, but I think the runup of stocks that we saw before Labor Day has set the stage for downside surprises."

In other markets Wednesday, bond yields ended broadly lower.

Heating oil futures fell almost 4% after a report that U.S. inventories rose for a fifth week, signaling that refiners were working to replenish low supplies.

Near-term crude oil futures lost 46 cents to $33.82 a barrel, the second consecutive decline after OPEC agreed Sunday to boost production.

Energy stocks were broadly lower. BP Amoco fell $1.06 to $55.31, Halliburton lost $2.44 to $51.94 and Total Fina Elf fell $2.56 to $77.38 all on the NYSE.


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