- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street edged lower yesterday as investors sought profits from the previous day’s session, taking a pause between key economic reports while the earnings season winds down.

After sending the markets higher on an encouraging report from the manufacturing sector Monday, investors were sifting through some of the last third-quarter results and awaiting employment numbers, expected later this week. The gap between economic reports made it a good day to take money off the table, said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management.

“What you’re seeing here is kind of a void between economic data,” Mr. Williamson said. “Stocks are up and money managers have to take profits. With two months to go in the year, they’ll want to lock in whatever gains they can.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 19.63, or 0.2 percent, at 9,838.83.

The broader gauges also closed lower. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 9.74, or 0.5 percent, to 1,957.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 5.77, or 0.5 percent, to close at 1,053.25.

Generally strong economic data, merger news and solid financial results helped the markets climb over the past month. But analysts said there could be pullbacks ahead amid a lack of earnings news.

“Our sense here is that the easy money has already been made,” said Enrique Figueroa, chief investment officer at asset management firm Sand Hill Advisors Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif.

Among companies reporting results yesterday, Clear Channel Communications Inc. said its third-quarter earnings tripled, largely on gains from its sale of shares in Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. The radio and advertising giant dipped 30 cents to close at $41.10.

The Gillette Co. easily beat analysts’ estimates with an 18 percent rise in third-quarter earnings, thanks to strong blade and razor sales. The maker of razors and Duracell batteries closed up $1.65, or 5.1 percent, at $34.15.

Advancers also included Tyco International Ltd., which closed up $1.48, or 7 percent, at $22.50, after the company said its quarterly losses had narrowed sharply. Excluding charges, Tyco earned 34 cents a share, beating Wall Street estimates by a penny. The troubled industrial conglomerate plans to slash about 7,200 jobs under a restructuring plan that will consolidate more than 200 facilities.

The technology-dominated Nasdaq, which closed at its highest level in nearly 22 months on Monday, pulled back as investors sought profits from some semiconductor issues. Chip maker Intel Corp. ended the day down 36 cents at $33.68.

Financial-services companies also saw declines. Prudential Financial Inc. dropped 98 cents to close at $38.05 after several former employees of its securities unit were charged in a federal investigation of mutual fund trades.

The firm reported after the close of regular trading that its third-quarter profits fell 41 percent, largely because of costs associated with the merger of its retail brokerage with Wachovia Corp. and other one-time items. Excluding the charges, Prudential beat Wall Street expectations by a wide margin, but it declined 5 cents in after-hours trading.

Priceline.com Inc. beat analyst expectations by 3 cents a share in results reported after the close, but the online travel broker lowered its fourth-quarter earnings forecast in part because of a downturn in its airline business. Priceline, which gained 56 cents to close at $29.25 in the regular session, plunged 20 percent in after-hours trading.

Advancers and decliners were about even on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was moderate, with 1.38 billion shares traded, compared to 1.36 billion on Monday.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, closed up 1.03, or 0.2 percent, at 538.87.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average finished 2.7 percent higher yesterday. In Europe, France’s CAC-40 declined 0.4 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.05 percent and Germany’s DAX index lost 0.07 percent.

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