- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street extended its slump yesterday after the United States said it would delay a vote on its U.N. resolution on Iraq. The U.S. move raised investors' fears of prolonged tensions with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"There's a buyers' strike going on, accounting for the low volume in the markets right now," said Jim Russell, director of core equity strategy for Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati. "In fact, given [Mondays] dramatic decline, today's lack of a bounce is really not inspiring at all."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 44.12, or 0.6 percent, to close at 7,524.06, after falling 171 points Monday to the lowest level since Oct. 10. Earlier yesterday, blue-chip stocks rose as much as 74 points.
The broader market also finished lower. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 6.90, or 0.5 percent, to 1,271.47. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 6.75, or 0.8 percent, to 800.73.
Yesterday, the United States and Britain delayed a vote on giving Saddam an ultimatum to disarm in an attempt to secure more backing for the measure.
They signaled they were willing to compromise to try to win support from Security Council members who oppose a rush to war, but discounted a 45-day delay sought by six swing nations on the Security Council.
The uncertainty about a war with Iraq has weighed heavily on stocks, leading to uneven trading in recent weeks. The Dow is now fewer than 250 points above its five-year closing low of 7,286.27, which was reached Oct. 9.
Analysts said investors generally want to see resolution with Iraq before committing to stocks, although others welcome developments that may delay a military confrontation if it means the United States will have U.N. support.
"The direction for the market overall is going to be sideways until it looks like we come to some resolution, be it war or be it a commitment to long-term inspections and some type of containment in Iraq," said Brian Bush, director of equity research at Stephens Inc.
King Pharmaceuticals slid $3.73 to $12.17 after the company said the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating its pricing practices.
Airline stocks also dropped on bad news about two carriers. Delta Air Lines dropped $1.91 to $6.75 after saying it expects negative cash flow from operations this quarter because of war concerns, while AMR lost 82 cents to $1.59 on reports the parent of American Airlines is lining up bankruptcy financing by selling shares.
Maytag lost $3.57 to $18.87 after cutting its first-quarter earnings estimates, citing in part sluggish sales of its Hoover vacuums.
Gainers included Heinz, which rose 26 cents to $29.70, after the food conglomerate reported fiscal third-quarter operating earnings that beat analysts' expectations.
Nokia rose 23 cents to $12.90 after the cell-phone maker cut its first-quarter outlook, citing a steep drop in sales.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was light at 1.40 billion shares, although it was higher than the 1.22 billion traded Monday.
The Russell 2000 index, a barometer of smaller-company stocks, dropped 0.98, or 0.3 percent, to 347.03.

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