- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market gave up early gains and finished narrowly lower yesterday as fears about mad cow disease and a heightened terror alert pressured Wall Street.

The news erased modest gains by the market after better-than-expected earnings from Home Depot. Analysts said investors were playing it safe and choosing to cash in profits from several weeks of gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.03, or 0.02 percent, at 8,491.36, having declined 185 points in the previous session. Earlier in the day, the blue chips gained as much as 56 points, although they also recovered ground after an intraday loss of 76 points.

The broader market also finished slightly lower. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.68, or 0.1 percent, to 1,491.09. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.04, or 0.1 percent, to 919.73.

U.S. health officials banned imports of cattle, beef, beef-based products and animal feed from Canada after officials there said an 8-year-old cow in Alberta was diagnosed with mad cow disease. Shares of beef producers and retailers sagged on the news. Dow component McDonald’s fell $1.21 to $16.95, Tyson Foods dropped 46 cents to $9.01, and Outback Steakhouse lost $1.16 to $35.46.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, raised the terror alert from yellow to orange, the second-highest level, indicating a high risk of attacks.

Officials provided few specific reasons for the change, which comes amid a wave of terrorist attacks overseas.

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