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Nasdaq Dives to 3rd-Worst Monthly Loss; Some Analysts Say Bottom Still to Come

March 01, 2001|From Times Staff, Bloomberg News

How bad was February on Wall Street?

The Nasdaq composite index posted its third-worst monthly loss, falling 22.4%.

Of the index's 10 biggest monthly declines in its 30-year history, four have occurred in the last year.

The broader market also suffered a sharp reversal in February, as worries about the slowing economy outweighed hopes for lower interest rates.

The blue-chip Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 9.2% for the month, wiping out January's gains and leaving it down 6.1% year to date.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 3.6% for the month and are down 2.7% for the year.

How much worse can it get?

Analysts who try to predict the market's direction by studying patterns in stock prices and volume see little to keep the Nasdaq index, now 2,151.83, from falling further over the next few months.

"I'm looking for a low in the spring--April or May--in the 1,800 to 2,000 range," said Philip Roth, chief technical strategist at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

"This is the third leg down for the Nasdaq," Roth said. The first leg was in April and May of 2000, the second in the fourth quarter.

Dodge Dorland, chief technical analyst at Landor Investment Management, agreed that it could be sometime this spring before Nasdaq finds a bottom that holds.

Dorland said until recently, 2,250 has "acted as a level that traders thought would find support." But with the declines the last two days, "we've lost touch with 2,250," he said. That means there "could be an additional move to the downside."

The next support levels could be 2,100 or 2,000, Dorland said--levels that matter for no reason other than they are "round numbers."

To be sure, not all technical analysts are so bearish on Nasdaq. Richard McCabe, chief technical analyst for Merrill Lynch & Co., said this week's declines might be the "last gasp" of Nasdaq's plunge.

McCabe said he sees a "bullish divergence." Though Nasdaq has dropped to new lows, he said, "a lot of momentum indicators are all holding above their levels of early January." Those indicators include such things as measures of the rate of change of an index.

Such a divergence, he said, is "often the sign of the end of a move."

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Nasdaq's Worst

The Nasdaq composite index in February posted its third-worst monthly decline in its 30-year history. Here are the top 10:

*--*

Nasdaq Pctg. Month close drop Oct. 1987 323.30 -27.2% Nov. 2000 2,597.93 -22.9 Feb. 2001 2,151.82 -22.4 Aug. 1998 1,499.25 -19.9 March 1980 131.00 -17.1 Oct. 1978 111.12 -16.4 April 2000 3,860.66 -15.6 Nov. 1973 93.51 -15.1 Aug. 1990 381.21 -13.0 Sept. 2000 3,672.82 -12.7

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Source: Bloomberg News

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