- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) A series of earnings disappointments from the likes of DuPont, Exxon Mobil and Earthlink reinforced investors' fears of a prolonged business slump yesterday, prompting them to sell stocks and send the Dow industrials to their lowest level in eight weeks.
"Investors still lack a catalyst to get the market going. Investors still appear to be somewhat in a state of indifference and uncertainty regarding earnings numbers," said Alan Ackerman, executive vice president of Fahnestock & Co.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 47.19, or 0.5 percent, at 10,089.24. The last time the Dow was lower was Feb. 22, when it stood at 9,968.15.
The market's broader indicators also stumbled. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 28.38, or 1.6 percent, to 1,730.30, and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 6.87, or 0.6 percent, to 1,100.96.
A big factor weighing on stocks, analysts said, is investors' increasing concern that the market is poised to suffer a third straight losing year.
"Investor confidence is down. We are two years in this bear market. People's patience is being tested," said Thomas F. Lydon, president of Global Trends Investments in Newport Beach, Calif. "If you look back, usually the best time for the stock market is November through May, and now we are through that."
With few companies sounding upbeat about the second quarter or 2002 overall, investors' hopes for a turnaround in the second half of the year are dimming. And now that most of the biggest companies have released first-quarter earnings, those results that are most likely to move the market, there's not much chance for an earnings-inspired rally.
Among yesterday's losers, Dow industrial DuPont fell $1.51 to $44.84 after missing first-quarter earnings expectations by a penny a share.
ExxonMobil, also a Dow stock, declined 50 cents to $41.35 on first-quarter profits that were 8 cents a share shy of analysts' estimates.
While first-quarter results have come in about as the market expected, investors are disappointed the most by corporate outlooks, which remain bleak.
Prospects of poor results weighed on certain stocks yesterday, including Earthlink, which tumbled $1.58 to $7.95 after lowering its second-quarter and yearly forecasts. The company also posted a first-quarter loss that was 2 cents wider than Wall Street had expected.
And, Ericsson fell 25 cents to $2.49, the day after announcing it was cutting up to 17,000 jobs, about 20 percent of its work force, and warning that it won't be profitable this year.
Yesterday's session produced some earnings-related winners, including Gillette, up $1.47 at $36.32 after beating forecasts by 2 cents. Lockheed Martin climbed $3.08 to $62.20 on earnings that surpassed estimates by 3 cents.
Despite the market's downturn, decliners were even with advancers on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume totaled 1.31 billion shares, ahead of Monday's 1.17 billion.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of smaller-company stocks, slipped 0.64, or 0.1 percent, to 510.29.

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