- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street couldn't seem to make up its mind yesterday, alternating between light buying, aggressive selling and aimless drifting.

Stocks ended the session narrowly mixed as investors struggled to find a winning strategy in a business environment that shows little signs of improving soon.

"The market is just not showing much confidence here," said Duncan Richardson, chief equity strategist at Eaton Vance. "We've got people back from summer vacation but they're not sure what to do. We're getting into earnings pre-announcement season and there's some nervousness there."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 35.78 at 10,033.27, its first finish above 10,000 in a week.

Broader stock indicators were less successful. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was off 1.20 at 1,131.74, while the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 11.77 to 1,759.01.

Hewlett-Packard and Compaq fell for a second straight session as investors again expressed their doubts about the merger between the companies announced late Monday.

Hewlett-Packard fell 79 cents to $18.21, a new 52-week low, for a loss of nearly 22 percent this week. Compaq lost 67 cents to $10.41, adding up to a two-session loss of almost 16 percent. The deal, originally valued at $25 billion, is now worth about $19 billion based on yesterday's preliminary closing prices.

Other tech stocks also weakened. Cisco Systems, Inc., fell 89 cents to $14.88, part of a broader sell-off in networking issues on worries of future earnings. Alcatel also dropped, sliding $1.08 to $13.62, despite reaffirming its 2001 forecast and announcing a $200 million deal for its products.

The few technology winners were bellwethers that investors felt might have a chance of not disappointing. Intel rose 65 cents to $27.50, ahead of a forecast for its chip sales and other products expected Thursday.

Microsoft was also higher, gaining $1.64 to $57.74, after its chief financial officer reiterated yesterday afternoon the company's revenue and earnings goals for fiscal 2002. Microsoft is also a Dow component and its news contributed significantly to the blue-chip index's modest advance, while keeping the Nasdaq's daily losses to a minimum.

Investors appeared to gravitate toward pharmaceutical and consumer goods companies, some of the most traditional blue chips. Merck rose $2.40 to $67.70, while General Electric climbed 87 cents to $41.70. Investors also were modestly optimistic about Procter & Gamble, sending its stock up 36 cents to $75.88 as the household goods company said that this quarter's results should be in line with expectations.

Not all blue chips fared as well, though. Financial stocks took a hit, with J.P. Morgan Chase falling $1.48 to $38.35.

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