Tuesday, April 6, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street took an expected break yesterday from a week of frenetic buying, leaving the major indexes mixed as investors bought blue chips, but sold technology shares on an earnings warning from Nokia.

With light volume and little liquidity in the market, large-cap stocks drifted into positive territory late in the session, apparently lifted by little more than investor optimism over the economy and corporate earnings, which are expected to be above average.

“There’s no real news to explain this. It’s a vacation-type week, and I’d expect this is just a meandering thing,” said Jay Suskind, head trader at Ryan Beck & Co. “With [last] Friday’s job numbers and anticipation of earnings continuing to be good, the market’s least path of resistance here is to the upside.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 12.44, or 0.1 percent, to 10,570.81. The Dow had been down more than 53 points in early trading.

Broader stock indicators moved lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 2.41, or 0.2 percent, at 1,148.16, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 19.22, or 0.9 percent, to 2,059.90.

The Dow has posted impressive gains in six of the past seven sessions, including a 97-point rise on Friday after the Labor Department reported an unexpectedly large jump in new jobs last month. Since its March 25 close, the Dow has gained 357.84, or 3.5 percent. Analysts thought it was merely a matter of time before sellers would take advantage of the higher prices, however, and that kept stocks lower through most of the session.

The Nasdaq’s losses were blamed in part on Nokia Corp., which warned that its earnings would come in at the lower end of the expected range. Nokia, which plummeted $3.94, or 19 percent, to $17.21, said it had underestimated the public’s demand for less-expensive cell phones.

Peter Dunay, chief market strategist at Wall Street Access, said that the market’s fundamentals remain sound and that major worries of the past month — a weakened dollar, rising oil prices and a lack of job growth — have lessened in the past week. But the market remains susceptible to bad news from overseas, he said.

“The only real concern I have is Iraq. The tensions seem to be getting worse and worse,” Mr. Dunay said. “The question starts to become, ‘How bad will that situation be?’ I think this could fuel more terrorism events around the world should the situation persist, and that could hit us pretty hard.”

Earnings season began with two reports before the session. UTi Worldwide Inc., a shipping logistics company, was up 93 cents at $45.03 after the company beat Wall Street estimates by 3 cents and declared an annual dividend. Racing company International Speedway Corp. posted record results in line with expectations, but lost 99 cents to $48.27.

Black & Decker Corp. upped its quarterly earnings outlook by 20 cents per share, based on strong demand. The tool manufacturer, which officially will announce earnings on April 20, was up $1.38 at $59.38.

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