- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street held steady yesterday, helped by buying in oil stocks on anticipation OPEC would cut its output and oil prices would stabilize.
Worries about security after a reported bombing attempt aboard a U.S. passenger plane hurt some airline stocks but failed to send the broader market lower.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended unchanged at 10,035 after an abbreviated trading session that ended at 1 p.m. U.S. markets are scheduled to reopen tomorrow.
Broader stock indicators were also flat. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.24 points to 1,145, and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.35, or nearly 0.1 percent, to 1,944. The Russell 2000 index rose 1.79 to 485.81.
Analysts weren't surprised by the lackluster session, noting that many on Wall Street were away for the holidays and that there was little significant news to move the market.
"You can't read too much into a half-day of trading before a holiday," said Larry Rice, chief investment officer at Josephthal & Co. "But considering that we still can't find [Osama] bin Laden and you had some suggestion of terrorist activity over the weekend, the market's doing quite well."
Exxon Mobil rose 50 cents to $39 on word that members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries were expected to approve an agreement to cut production by 1.5 million barrels a day starting Jan. 1. Several non-OPEC countries, including Norway, have indicated they would reduce their output.
But airline stocks were weak on weekend reports that an airline passenger had tried to detonate plastic explosives in his shoes. Authorities said yesterday they had no evidence to link him to bin Laden's terror network. American Airlines slid 70 cents to $21.19, while competitor Continental lost 68 cents to $24.36.
Credit agencies have downgraded the industry on concerns it is too weak to sustain any big problems.
"This is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, not the story of the market today," said Jim Weiss, chief investment officer for equities at State Street Research and Management. "The market is more listless than anything. There's nothing really going on right now."
Tech stocks, which have pulled back recently as investors consolidate gains from the recent big rally, also lagged. Cisco Systems lost 6 cents to $18.13, while Compaq Computer lost 27 cents to $9.67.
Wall Street shrugged off news that Argentina was defaulting on its debt. Analysts said that was because the announcement wasn't surprising given the country's ongoing financial and political problems. U.S. companies had enough time to reduce their exposure in the region, limiting the fallout.
Barring any significant news, many market watchers expect trading activity to be relatively subdued for the rest of the year because of the holidays.
That doesn't mean Wall Street won't face a tough year ahead, however. Major indexes likely will end 2001 below where they started, and there is still concern that current stock prices are too high given the weakness in corporate profits.

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