- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Wall Street extended its holiday lull yesterday, closing mixed as investors refrained from making big bets.
The market couldn't shake off last week's four-session losing streak, which was based on worries about higher oil prices and inflation and which thwarted the usual Santa Claus rally. Yesterday's trading was lackluster because of a dearth of major earnings or economic news and the fact that many traders were absent ahead of New Year's.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 29.07, or 0.4 percent, at 8,332.85, having lost 2.4 percent last week.
Wall Street's broader gauges were mixed. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 8.77, or 0.7 percent, to 1,339.54 after dropping 1.1 percent last week. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 3.99, or 0.5 percent, to 879.39, after last week's loss of 2.3 percent. The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller-company stocks, fell 1.93, or 0.5 percent, to 382.23.
"People are still worried about the economy. It is just uncertainty in Iraq and rising oil prices aren't good for the economy. Buyers have just retreated," said Michael Murphy, head trader at Wachovia Securities in Baltimore.
The market has forfeited the so-called Santa Claus rally, which typically begins just before Christmas and runs through the end of the year. The last two weeks of the year historically are robust for Wall Street as investors become optimistic about the next 12 months.
Recently, rising oil prices have reminded investors that inflation could pose another threat to the uncertain economic recovery. Increasing tension in Iraq and an oil strike in Venezuela have sent crude prices surging.
"Once again, the scenario is earnings, the economy and external risks. Investors are sitting on the fence," said Alan Ackerman, executive vice president of Fahnestock & Co.
Intel fell 64 cents to $15.76 and Broadcom declined 67 cents to $15.25.
Wal-Mart rose $1.48 to $50.64 after saying yesterday that sales were strong during Christmas week but that it still expected only a modest increase for the season. Wal-Mart earlier reduced its holiday sales forecast, projecting to a range of 2 percent to 3 percent from 3 percent to 5 percent.
Halliburton inched up 10 cents to $18.50 after Banc of America Securities repeated its "buy" recommendation on the oil services company.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 4-to-3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was light at 1.02 billion shares, but well above Friday's 759.66 million.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished down 1.6 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 advanced 0.4 percent, while Britain's FTSE 100 and Germany's DAX index each gained 1.9 percent.

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