- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street wobbled through an indecisive session yesterday, finishing modestly lower as investors, worried about the economy and terrorism, had no conviction to sustain even a mild wave of bargain hunting.

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average having fallen 5 percent since March 8, investors sought to rebalance their portfolios with stocks that, while still fundamentally sound, were hit hard in the two-week sell-off. But stocks gave up their gains twice during the session as nervous short-term investors cashed in their intraday profits.

“The market right now is probably at the lower end of a fair-value range,” said Kevin Caron, market strategist for Ryan, Beck & Co. “The near-term trader, trading off the news on the war on terrorism, is going to take this opportunity to move money out of this market. But for long-term investors, this is a good time to step in.”

The Dow fell 1.11, or 0.01 percent, to 10,063.64 after rising as much as 60 points early and then ratcheting up and down through the session.

Broader stock indicators also ended narrowly lower after a volatile day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.45, or 0.1 percent, to 1,093.95, while the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 8.10, or 0.4 percent, to 1,901.80.

Many investors sat out the session, waiting for tomorrow’s gross domestic product and first-time jobless data for a sign of whether the economic recovery would gain some momentum. Lower-than-expected numbers could prompt another round of selling in a market that has been falling for weeks.

Analysts said the market may be close to finding a bottom, although they said stocks might give more ground before buyers finally settle in for good.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 8 to 5 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average dropped 0.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent for the session, while France’s CAC-40 and Germany’s DAX index ended the day flat.

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