- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street pushed moderately higher yesterday, snapping four straight days of declines on news that Iraq approved a U.N. demand for surveillance flights.
Trading was light and choppy as investors refrained from major purchases despite merger news involving Hughes Electronics and SBC Communications, and Johnson & Johnson and biotech firm Scios.
"We're going to have this slow torture because nobody on the corporate front is going to stand up and say things look terrific," said Tony Cecin, director of institutional trading at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, referring to the uneven trading.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55.88, or 0.7 percent, to close at 7,920.11 after declining 2.4 percent last week to post its fourth straight losing week. Earlier in the day, the blue chips were down as much as 62 points.
The broader market also finished moderately higher. The Nasdaq composite index gained 14.21, or 1.1 percent, to 1,296.68, after a weekly loss of 2.9 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.28, or 0.8 percent, to 835.97, after dropping 3 percent last week.
Hughes Electronics rose 45 cents, to $10.20, after reports that SBC Communications, the nation's second-largest local-phone company, might bid for Hughes, the country's top satellite broadcaster. SBC dropped 68 cents, to $24.50.
Johnson & Johnson gained 20 cents, to $52.04, after the health care company confirmed it was buying biotech company Scios in a deal worth $2.4 billion. Scios rose $1.72, to $43.92.
Investors' anxieties about a war with Iraq and terrorism have pressured the market in the past month, leading to steep declines. The Dow and S&P; 500 are down about 5 percent for the year, and the Nasdaq has lost 3 percent.
Some investors were also avoiding major commitments as they awaited Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's comments to Congress about the economy today and Wednesday, analysts said.
"Right now, it's a low-volume quagmire kind of environment," Mr. Cecin said. "No one wants to do anything for fear whatever they do will be wrong. So you've got cash sitting on its hands."
Steven Goldman, chief market strategist at Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Conn., said investors should expect market volatility on the latest developments with Iraq until there is war or peace.
"They are hourly movements to the market," he said, referring to the back-and-forth actions involving Iraq. "We're waiting for the bigger picture to be resolved."
Wal-Mart gained 23 cents, to $47.02, after the discounter said last week's sales fell below forecasts but that it expects to meet February sales estimates.
United Technologies rose 31 cents, to $63.98, after the industrial conglomerate affirmed its 2003 earnings estimates.
Marriott International climbed $1.20, to $30.55, after the hotel operator reported fourth-quarter operating earnings that were ahead of analysts' expectations.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 1.52 billion shares.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 0.4 percent higher Monday. In Europe, France's CAC-40 declined 0.9 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 0.6 percent and Germany's DAX index rose 0.7 percent.

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