- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Concerns over the economic impact of the Asian earthquake disasters pushed stocks lower yesterday, putting Wall Street’s recent rally on hold despite decent holiday sales figures and falling oil prices.

Analysts generally were pleased with the uptick in sales most retailers reported late last week and in post-holiday shopping. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. saw sales rise modestly, while Amazon.com Inc. reported record sales during the holiday season.

Insurers, hotels and travel-related stocks fell as investors reacted to the devastation in Asia, which could be one of the costliest disasters in history, though the economic impact for the United States appeared to be minimal. With trading volume light during the holiday week, analysts said, there was little to be divined from Wall Street’s initial reaction.

“Honestly, you’ve got this news out there, but trading volumes are so light, what with the holidays, you can’t really put any meaning behind what’s going on today,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for VFinance Investments. “Low volume means everything’s magnified. Next week, we’ll get a much better idea of where things are going.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 50.99, or 0.47 percent, to 10,776.13.

Broader stock indicators saw modest losses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 5.21, or 0.43 percent, at 1,204.92, and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 6.40, or 0.3 percent, to 2,154.22.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 8-to-5 on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.17 billion shares, compared with 1.22 billion on Thursday. Financial markets were closed Friday for Christmas Eve.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 5.03, or 0.77 percent, at 644.34.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.03 percent. In Europe, Germany’s Xetra DAX index dropped 0.38 percent and France’s CAC-40 lost 0.13 percent for the session. London markets were closed for the holidays.

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