- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

NEW YORK, March 19 (UPI) — Prices on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market ended mixed Wednesday as investors braced for what could be the final countdown toward the start of military action in Iraq.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average continued to climb, gaining 71.22 points, or 0.87 percent, to close at 8,265.45, after rising 52.31 points Tuesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index, however, lost 3.47 points, or 0.25 percent, at 1,396.08, after adding 8.28 points in the previous session.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index increased by 44.69 points to 4,844.85, the Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up 7.58 points to 874.03, the American Stock Exchange composite index on the other hand dipped by 0.13 point to 819.19, while the Wilshire 5000 Index gained 57.87 points to 8,258.17.

Big Board volume was at an estimated 1.43 billion shares and Nasdaq volume was an estimated 1.69 billion shares.

President George W. Bush's 48-hour ultimatum ordering Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face military action expires at 8 p.m. EST Wednesday. Saddam has said he will not seek exile.

Signs of early success, such as whether Iraq sets its oilfields ablaze and whether Iraqi military officials surrender, also could guide the markets soon after the start of fighting, analysts said.

Investors were watching the airline sector, given its financial difficulties and concerns about the impact of a war on travel.

UAL, parent of United Airlines, said international bookings had fallen nearly 40 percent from a year earlier and domestic sales were down substantially. The airline, which is operating under bankruptcy court protection, warned "liquidation is a distinct possibility" if it doesn't sharply cut its labor costs.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury prices dropped. The 10-year bond fell 20/32 to 99 4/32. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, rose to 3.98 percent from 3.91 percent late Tuesday.

In Europe, stock prices ended higher in London, Frankfurt and Paris, lifted by news that U.S. forces had entered the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait.

The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index gained 18.10 points, or 0.48 percent, to 3,765.40. The German DAX index rose 30.61 points, or 1.18 percent, to 2,615.22 and the French CAC-40 index rose 42.79 points, or 1.5 percent, to 2,837.68.

In Asia, prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended higher as investors began anticipating the imminent start, and hoped-for quick end, to a U.S.-led war on Iraq. The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which rose 82.82 points during the previous session, gained 96.58 points, or 1.2 percent, to 8,051.04.

Elsewhere in Asia, stocks ended higher in Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.

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