- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

NEW YORK, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market ended sharply lower Tuesday, with ongoing concerns over Iraq causing selling pressures, despite a slate of positive corporate earnings reports, and a strong report on U.S. housing starts.

Positive earnings reports released by Johnson & Johnson and 3M beat Wall Street expectations for the fourth quarter, but failed to lift the market.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average dropped 143.50 points to close at 8,442.90. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 11.95 points to close at 1,364.25.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index dropped 92.23 points to close at 5,016.28 while Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 14.16 points to close at 887.62. The American Stock Exchange composite index dropped 8.89 points to close at 823.37 while the Wilshire 5000 Index fell 129.84 points to close at 8,400.48.

Volume was 1.52 billion on the Big Board and 1.29 billion on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Concerns over the Iraqi situation continued as President Bush said during a press conference that Iraq leader Suddam Hussein has not been disarming but has been "delaying and deceiving."

In economic news, the housing boom continues strong, with the U.S Commerce Department reporting Tuesday that housing starts increased 5 percent for December, while building permits jumped 8 percent, reaching a record high.

According to Commerce, new starts of homes and apartments rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.835 million, the highest level in 16 years. Of those nearly 2 million starts, 1.473 million starts were for single-family homes, also a rise of 5 percent, and the highest number in 24 years.

Building permits for future home and apartment construction hit the 1.88 million market, also the highest number in 16 years, with permits for single family homes hitting a record 1.4 million, a 3 percent rise.

Wall Street economists had expected housing starts to stay steady at around the earlier November figure of 1.69 million. Also Tuesday, November's starts were revised upward to 1.75 million from earlier Commerce estimates of 1.697 million.

Though housing starts came in higher than expected, the financial market took little solace. At midday, the markets were trading on the downside, pressured by concerns over Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury prices rose. The 10-year bond jumped 11/32 to 100 7/32. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, dropped to 3.97 percent.

In Europe, stock prices ended lower in London, Frankfurt and Paris trading. The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index lost 41.90 points to close at 3,736.70. The German DAX index dropped 22.98 to close at 2,870.57 and the French CAC-40 index fell 27.68 points to close at 2,992.32.

In Asia Tuesday, stocks ended mixed in the absence of any overnight direction from the U.S. stock markets, which were closed for the Martin Luther King holiday.

Tokyo stocks rose 1.7 percent, supported by buying interest in the banking sector after Mizuho Holdings, up 4.1 percent, announced it would boost capital to write off more bad loans.

The Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.2 percent at 9568.47, with buying interest in the telecom and technology sectors lending support. China Mobile gained 0.5 percent, while China Unicom rose 1.8 percent.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the composite index gained 1.4 percent at 675.87 after some positive comments from JP Morgan on the outlook for the local market. Tenaga Nasional rose 1.6 percent and Malayan Banking rose 1.9 percent.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index ended 1.2 percent higher at 375.91, supported by gains in the telecom sector on hopes a proposed new tax policy will help improve profits. Advanced Info Service surged 3.6 percent, while Shin Corp. rose 1.8 percent.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the composite index rose 0.18 percent to 405.16 points, raising in late trading on the back of interest in PT Telkom, up 1.43 percent.

But the rest of Asia moved lower. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index finished down 0.3 percent at 632.86, with Samsung Electronics loosing 0.3 percent and Kookmin Bank 1.2 percent.

In Taiwan, the main TAIEX index ended down 0.1 percent at 4,945.87, erasing earlier gains. China Steel, the market's most active issue, fell 1.67 percent.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index closed 0.6 percent lower at 1060.07 on profit-taking after the recent gains.

In Singapore, the Straits Times index rose 0.2 percent at 1365.32.

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