- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

NEW YORK, Jan. 13 (UPI) — Stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market were mixed, ending near the flat line in trading Monday, pressured by weakness in the oil patch.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average, which rose 8.71 points Friday, rose 1.09 points to close at 8,785.98. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index, which gained 9.26 points in the previous session, ended down 1.64 points to close at 1,446.08.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index fell 0.59 to close at 5,206.10 while the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.30 points to close at 926.27.

The American Stock Exchange composite index dropped 6.90 points to close at 826.54 while the Wilshire 5000 Index dropped 12.78 points to close at 8,745.65.

Volume was 1.65 billion on the Big Board and 1.53 billion on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Analysts said stocks reversed gears around midday amid a decline in oil stocks, a slew of fresh corporate news and broker downgrades.

Oil prices came under pressure after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed Sunday to increase crude production by 1.5 million barrels a day, or 6.5 percent, to 24.5 million in a bid to lower prices and offset shortages resulting from a strike in Venezuela. Oil service stocks were the biggest losers.

On the corporate front, Duke Energy, the nation's second-largest utility owner, said its 2002 earnings fell more than expected because of a damaging ice storm, job cuts and a decline in power prices and trading. Profit, excluding some expenses, was about 10 cents less than its previous estimate of about $1.95 a share.

Meanwhile, brokers at J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. said personal-computer sales may be weak as customers fail to upgrade their systems, and prices may be further reduced. The firm lowered Dell Computer, the world's largest PC maker, to neutral from overweight.

Brokers at Thomas Weisel cut their rating on Johnson & Johnson's stock from buy to attractive, citing concerns about the healthcare-pharmaceutical giant's business.

Brokers at CSFB downgraded Motorola to underweight from neutral and cut its price target to $8 a share from $11, saying the fundamental risks outweigh the potential rewards at the current valuation.

The firm also said it thinks entertainment and media stocks are likely to outperform the broader market in 2003, with advertising in an upturn mode.

And, AOL Time Warner came off its best level as investors digested news that Chairman Steve Case resigned Sunday in a move he said was "in the best interest" of the troubled media giant. Case will remain as a director of the company with responsibility for corporate strategy.

With Case stepping down, it's possible that the company will take quick, decisive action to solve the 2-year-old problem with its troubled America Online division, experts said.

Intel Corp. slipped ahead of Tuesday's release of its earnings. The chip giant is expected to report earnings of 14 cents a share.

In other corporate news, Georgia-Pacific Corp. warned that its fourth-quarter profit would come in well below Wall Street's consensus forecast.

Wall Street's forecasters are bullish about the outlook for corporate earnings in the fourth quarter, but their views get less rosy the farther they gaze into their crystal balls.

The earnings flood hits tidal wave proportions on Thursday, with reports expected from BankOne, Delta, EBay, General Motors, FleetBoston, Sears Roebuck, Sun Microsystems, United Technologies and Wachovia, among others.

Meanwhile, a full plate of economic data awaits investors starting with retail sales and import/export prices on Tuesday.

The Fed's Beige Book comes out on Wednesday, along with the producer price index and business inventories.

Jobless claims and the consumer price index come on Thursday. The week wraps up with international trade, industrial production and, importantly, consumer sentiment.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury prices rose. The 10-year bond added 2/32 to 99. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, fell to 4.12 percent from 4.13 percent late Friday.

In Europe, stock prices ended lower in London, but rose in Frankfurt and Paris in moderate trading. The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index lost 37.0 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,937.1. The German DAX index rose 33.77 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3,071.1 and the French CAC-40 index added 9.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,169.82.

Analysts said German and French stocks were supported by strength in telecommunications companies after France Telecom's stock was upgraded and news of a bond issue.

Brokers at Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock and France Telecom said it was planning a $3.18 billion bond issue. Goldman also upgraded the European telecom sector to attractive from neutral.

German issues were led higher by Deutsche Telekom and automakers. Analysts said German carmakers benefited from data Friday that hinted at better export potential.

In Asia, prices ended higher in moderate trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, lifted by strength in China-related issues. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which rose 46.09 points during the previous session, jumped 112.58 points, or 1.2 percent, to 9,834.08.

Analysts said stocks were lifted as investors acquired an appetite for China-linked issues amid the uncertain global outlook.

Elsewhere, stocks ended higher on the South Korean Stock Exchange, lifted by strength in oil stocks. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which fell 2.04 points during the previous session, gained 19.52 points, or 3.1 percent, to 648.06.

Analysts said the market also drew support from developments over the weekend to ease the crisis in North Korea.

Prices on the Taiwan Stock Exchange rose to their highest level in more than five months. The key Weighted Index, which rose 37.07 points during the previous session, jumped 140.41 points, or 2.9 percent, to 4,991.26 on hopes for renewed technology spending in the United States.

Meanwhile, Singapore stocks ended higher for the fourth consecutive session in moderate trading. The key Straits Times Index, which rose 12.08 points during the previous session, rose 38.88 points, or 2.9 percent, to 1,386.05.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended slightly higher in light trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which slipped 0.60 points during the previous session, rose 7.40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,042.50.

Meanwhile, markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday. Trading will resume on Tuesday with the Nikkei Stock Average hovering around 8,470.45 after losing 27.48 points last Friday.

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