Wednesday, August 27, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks drifted to a narrowly mixed finish yesterday in a session so quiet that the Dow Jones Industrial Average floated in only a 40-point range.

With no major economic or earnings news due out and many traders and investors wrapping up their summer vacations, analysts had expected the session to be light and choppy. Trading volume has been thin throughout August.

“Summer is coming to an end. That is a good thing going forward. Volume will come back up,” said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at the Boston Company Asset Management.

The Dow closed down 6.66, or 0.1 percent, at 9,333.79, having gained 22.81 Tuesday in a late-day advance.

The market’s broader gauges finished higher.

The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 11.48, or 0.7 percent, to 1,782.13 as investors followed a trend of shifting more of their money into growth stocks such as technology issues.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index eked out a gain of 0.06 to close at 996.79.

Analysts said there was room for the market to pull back and that Wall Street had been expected to retreat, given that stocks were in their sixth month of rallies.

“Technically, stocks are starting to be overbought,” said A.C. Moore, chief investment strategist for Dunvegan Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Still, the declines were small and limited to the Dow.

The major indexes continued to hover around highs not seen in more than a year.

Analysts said the readings are being regarded as support levels on Wall Street.

For now, it looks like investors already have factored in an economic rebound and earnings recovery into Wall Street’s higher prices, analysts said.

Brokerage house ratings affected the performances of individual stocks.

Medical supplies maker Boston Scientific dropped $2.13 to $63.25 after Morgan Stanley lowered its rating to “equal-weight” from “overweight.”

Brewing company Adolph Coors climbed $2.25 to $54.41 after Bear Stearns upgraded it to “outperform” from “peer perform.”

Exxon Mobil rose 42 cents to $37.25 after Banc of America Securities raised its rating to “buy” from “neutral.”

Among other gainers, Sears advanced 85 cents to $43.65 after saying its August same-store sales were running better than expected. Earlier, the retailer forecast flat sales at stores open at least one year.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners slightly more than 4-to-3 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Trading volume was light, registering 1.05 billion shares, below an already thin 1.19 billion on Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller-company stocks, advanced 4.41, or 0.9 percent, to 490.92.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average finished yesterday down 0.2 percent.

In afternoon trading in Europe, France’s CAC-40 advanced and Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.7 percent, while Germany’s DAX index rose 0.6 percent.

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