- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

NEW YORK, Feb. 12 (UPI) — Prices on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market dropped again Wednesday on increased concerns about al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average dropped 84.94 points, or 1.08 percent, to close at 7,758.17, having lost 77.00 points Tuesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 16.52 points, or 1.28 percent, to end at 1,278.94, after easing 1.22 points in the previous session.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index declined 58.98 points to 4,649.71, the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.52 points to 818.68, the American Stock Exchange composite index shed 7.10 points to 805.85, and the Wilshire 5000 Index tumbled 100.83 points to 7,772.39.

Big Board volume reached an estimated 1.24 billion shares, while Nasdaq volume was around 1.20 billion shares.

Analysts said the markets were again held hostage by fears of fresh acts of terrorism and a possible war with Iraq after the release of an audio tape, allegedly from bin Laden, exhorting Muslims to fight the "allies of the devil" and promoting suicide attacks.

Doug McAllister, senior vice president at Prudential Securities, said: "With the financial world on edge about the probable war with Iraq, many market participants are reluctant to make any long-term decisions."

Investors appear to be frozen in the headlights and will remain that way until they get a feel for what will transpire in Iraq, analysts said.

In the most recent developments, a new tape believed to be from bin Laden was played Tuesday on Al Jazeera, an Arab satellite-TV service, and called on Iraqis to retaliate with suicide attacks if the United States decides to invade.

Experts said investors are now anxiously awaiting an address by U.N. arms inspectors to the Security Council on Friday, outlining the degree of cooperation shown by Iraq over demands that it fully disclose its weapons arsenal.

Meanwhile, messages from suspected terrorists about delivering packages, a term used before as a code for bombs, to the United States prompted officials to raise the terror-alert status last week and added to the anxiety on Wall Street.

On the corporate front, Dow-component Coca-Cola posted a fourth-quarter net income of 40 cents a share, in line with estimates and up from 37 cents a year earlier as revenue increased thanks to recent acquisitions and licensing deals.

U.S. Treasury prices pushed higher. The 10-year bond rose 6/32 to 100 17/32. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, slipped to 3.93 percent from 3.96 percent late Tuesday.

In Europe, stock prices ended lower in cautious trading in London, Frankfurt and Paris. The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index lost 37.8 points, or 1 percent, to 3,631.4. The German DAX index fell 46.14 points, or 1.8 percent, to 2,580.86 and the French CAC-40 index lost 71.22 points, or 2.5 percent, to 2,770.62.

Analysts said European markets were also under pressure from the suspected bin Laden tape, which intensified war fears.

In Asia, prices rose to a three-week high on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, lifted by strength in the banking sector. The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which rose 36.77 points Monday, jumped 179.24 points, or 2.1 percent, to 8,664.17 — its highest close since Jan. 24. Markets were closed Tuesday for a national holiday.

Prices also ended higher on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in a technical rebound with solid buying of banks and property stocks. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which lost 37.23 points in the previous session, rose 119.99 points, or 1.3 percent, to 9,314.90.

Prices also ended higher in moderate trading on the South Korean Stock Exchange as North Korea's apparent willingness to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula cheered investors. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which eased 1.27 points during the previous session, gained 7.31 points, or 1.3 percent, to 583.29.

Stocks snapped a four-session losing streak and ended slightly higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange as gains in petroleum-related companies outweighed losses in technology issues. The Weighted Index, which lost 24.89 points during its previous session, added 5.89 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,624.87.

Prices also ended higher on the Australian Stock Exchange in moderate trading, lifted by some bargain hunting. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which lost 10.20 points during the previous session, added 7.10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,867.10.

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