- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (UPI) — Prices on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market pushed up Thursday, as the United States lowered its terror threat level a notch.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average rose 78.01 points, or 1.00 percent, to 7,884.99, after sinking 102.52 points Wednesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 20.28 points, or 1.56 percent, to 1,323.96 having fallen 25.30 points in the previous session.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index gained 39.55 points, or 0.85 percent, to 4,693.53, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.73 points to 837.28, the American Stock Exchange composite index inched up 1.38 points to 828.20 and the Wilshire 5000 Index rose 87.29 points to 7,939.72.

Big Board volume was at an estimated 1.29 billion shares, while Nasdaq volume was at 1.28 billion shares.

Stocks rallied as the United States lowered its terror threat level a notch, boosting sentiment in a market that has been pounded by fears of a war against Iraq and more attacks at home. The government lowered its terror threat level back to yellow, which means a significant risk of attack. The color-coded threat level had been raised on Feb. 7 to orange, the second highest, after a number of intelligence reports suggested a high possibility of attack.

Prices were also supported by a report in Egypt that Iraq would announce plans to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles as requested by the United Nations.

The market also got a boost from a government report showing that January durable goods orders scored their biggest monthly jump since July. Orders were up 3.3 percent, more than the 1.3 percent gain analysts had expected.

Also, sales of new, single-family homes plummeted in January, possibly marking the start of a slowdown in the housing market. New-home sales sank 15.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 941,000 units, the largest monthly percentage drop in nine years, according to the Commerce Department. The report was much weaker than Wall Street's expectations of a 3 percent slide.

The number of workers filing first-time unemployment claims rose to a two-month high last week, suggesting the faltering economic recovery is hurting the job market. The Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose by 11,000 to 417,000.

In other news, Salomon Smith Barney senior economist Steven Wieting lowered his 2003 earnings-per-share estimates on the Standard & Poor's 500. He cut his 2003 forecast to $51.25 per share from $52.10.

U.S. Treasury prices drifted up. The 10-year bond rose 7/32 to 101 4/32. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, fell to 3.74 percent from 3.76 percent late Wednesday.

In Europe, stock prices ended mixed. The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index slipped 23.40 points to 3,569.90. The German DAX index rose 63.02 points to 2,513.22 and the French CAC-40 index rose 57.23 points to 2,715.80.

Earlier in Asia, Tokyo stocks were little changed as weakness in high-tech issues offset some bargain hunting in bank stocks. The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which fell 3.68 points in the previous session, added 2.57 points, or 0.03 percent, to 8,359.38.

Stocks snapped a five-day losing streak on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, lifted by some bouts of bargain hunting. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which fell 32.20 points in the previous session, rose 17.96 points, or 0.2 percent, to 9,134.24.

Prices ended lower in moderate trading in Taiwan, where the key Weighted Price Index lost 24.23 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,432.46. Markets in Taiwan will be closed on Friday for the Peace Memorial Day holiday. Trading will resume on Monday.

Prices also lost ground in cautious trading in Seoul, where the Korea Composite Stock Price Index lost 7.80 points to 582.46.

Prices also ended lower on the Singapore Stock Exchange, where the Straits Times Index lost 15.89 points to 1,271.25.

And prices fell on the Australian Stock Exchange, where the All Ordinaries Index slid 29.50 points to 2,774.70.

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