- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street barely budged yesterday as investors showed little enthusiasm for buying while they awaited key economic reports scheduled for later this week.

With most third-quarter earnings reported and preannouncements for the fourth quarter still to come, the market is especially sensitive to economic data, said Charles G. Crane, strategist for Victory SBSF Capital Management. The market was waiting in particular for this week’s Labor Department reports.

“Every month that passes, those statistics will become more politically charged,” Mr. Crane said. “And when you add that element to the analysis, it can create some unpredictable effects on stock prices.”

At the close of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 18.00, or 0.2 percent, at 9,820.83.

The broader market indexes were narrowly mixed. The Nasdaq Composite Index ended the day up 1.41, or 0.1 percent, at 1,959.37. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 1.44, or 0.1 percent, at 1,051.81.

A government report showing a rebound in orders to U.S. factories in September signaled more improvement yesterday. That followed a more forward-looking industry report earlier this week that said manufacturing in October was at its highest level in nearly four years.

The Institute for Supply Management reported yesterday that the U.S. service sector expanded for a seventh straight month, and that employers have started hiring again.

The markets got a boost last month from encouraging economic data, merger news and generally good financial results, but analysts say there may be less momentum between now and the end of the year.

If weekly jobless claims reported today and monthly employment figures expected tomorrow are strong, it could help lure more investors away from the sidelines.

“There’s certainly some hesitation today,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke LLC. “The monthly employment data [tomorrow] will either corroborate recent evidence showing the economy is improving, or indicate that last month’s job gain was an aberration.”

Some investors might have been holding off in anticipation of results from technology bellwether Cisco Systems Inc., which beat analyst expectations in earnings reported after the close. Cisco, which closed up 22 cents at $21.80 in regular trading, gained 4.5 percent in after-hours dealings.

Technology investors were also waiting for results from wireless chip maker Qualcomm Inc., which met expectations and offered a bright outlook for the next quarter. Despite that, Qualcomm declined after hours, having ended the day down 73 cents at $46.59.

Also reporting after the bell was News Corp., which beat Wall Street forecasts on the strength of its film, cable and newspaper segments. The company gained nearly 4 percent after hours, having ended the regular session up 38 cents at $36.48.

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