- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street bumped through a quiet session yesterday, with blue chips rising on some upbeat economic news and then dropping back as investors played it safe before the Labor Day weekend. Tech stocks lagged throughout the day.

Analysts shrugged off yesterday's trading, which came amid light volume ahead of the holiday. The session capped a lackluster week that was notable mostly for profit-taking from five weeks of advances. It also ended a month in which the stock market started showing some meaningful signs of health after its prolonged slump.

"We are really going to start over after Labor Day and sink our teeth into good trading. Will it be the result of economic news, we don't know," said Stephen Carl, principal and head of equity trading at the Williams Capital Group. "We have to have strong economic numbers and strong earnings numbers."

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 7.49, or 0.1 percent, at 8,663.50, its fourth straight loss. The Dow gave up an earlier gain of 112 and ended a five-week winning stretch.

Broader indexes also ended yesterday lower. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 20.92, or 1.6 percent, to 1,314.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 1.73, or 0.2 percent, to 916.07.

The three major market gauges finished the week lower, ending a five-week winning streak for the Dow and S&P and a three-week run for the Nasdaq. For the week, the Dow lost 2.4 percent, the Nasdaq declined 4.8 percent, and the S&P fell 2.6 percent.

Although the market ended August by declining, stocks nonetheless showed some solid signs of life during the month and had many market watchers starting to believe that Wall Street at last had reached a bottom after months of selling.

The Dow ended August down 8.4 percent, while the Nasdaq was off 9.8 percent. But the broadest of the three indexes, the S&P 500, rose 4.4 percent.

It was hard to glean much about investors' state of mind from yesterday's trading. While they are feeling more confident about stocks, they were expected to take some profits, especially ahead of the three-day weekend.

"It is encouraging that the pullbacks have been relatively restrained. So far, everything has been a normal correction in an uptrend," said Richard A. Dickson, technical analyst at Hilliard Lyons in Louisville, Ky.

Among the economic reports yesterday, analysts said investors were heartened by news that manufacturing activity increased in the Midwest as the Purchasing Management Association of Chicago index of area business activity rose to 54.9 in August. The index is considered a harbinger of the Institute for Supply Management's national survey on manufacturing.

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