- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

Wall Street ended a tepid trading session yesterday with a moderate advance after a disappointing outlook from Kimberly Clark left investors questioning prospects for a solid business recovery in 2003. Stocks struggled for much of the session to achieve their gains.
Trading paled by comparison with Tuesday, when the market rose sharply after the Federal Reserve issued a rather positive assessment of the economy and left interest rates unchanged on the belief that economic conditions are strengthening.
After falling as much as 86 points earlier, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 14.88, or 0.2 percent, at 8,589.14. The Dow rose 100.85 the previous session.
The market's broader gauges were also higher. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 5.83, or 0.4 percent, to 1,396.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.51, or 0.05 percent, to 904.96.
Wall Street was pressured by Kimberly-Clark, which dropped $1.15 to $46.78 after lowering its fourth-quarter and 2003 earnings outlooks. The news was upsetting to investors who know that consumer products companies typically are among the safest havens in difficult markets because of a steady demand for their products.
Despite Kimberly-Clark's news, the market fought to climb higher, which analyst attributed to investors believing the future looks a lot more positive.
"You have an improving picture and a better story for 2003," said Kevin Caron, market strategist, Ryan, Beck & Co., who noted there have been a number of positive fundamental changes since September.
Among those changes, he said, were better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and the Republican sweep of Congress in November's midterm election, bolstering chances of a $300 billion tax cut over 10 years.
Other analysts believe that with news of corporate scandals dissipating, investors will be paying closer attention to the economy's progress, which bodes well for stocks. And, after three years of declines, prices look appealing especially with better economic conditions.
"My belief is that we have completed the unwinding of the [market] bubble and the stock market will recover with the economy," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp.
Among yesterday's gainers, retailer Talbots rose $1.05 to $29.49 after an upgrade from Lehman Brothers. Emmis Communications climbed 41 cents to $20.17 after Wachovia Securities raised its rating on the radio operator.
Technology also traded higher, having already had the biggest gains during investors' fourth-quarter buying binge. Analysts say investors' newfound preference for tech is a sign that better times are ahead for Wall Street. Oracle rose 60 cents to $11.30 and Microsoft advanced 65 cents to $54.66.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was light at 1.25 billion shares, slightly below 1.26 billion Tuesday.

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