- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell sharply yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing more than 115 points, as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan sounded a warning over the nation’s spiraling trade deficit. Crude oil futures rose more than $2 per barrel, further pressuring stocks.

Mr. Greenspan’s unusually frank assessment of the trade imbalance and its effect on the U.S. economy worried many investors. The Fed chairman said the economy was resilient thus far, but foreign investment could wane if the deficits continue to build and the U.S. dollar remains weak.

“Certainly that has investors worried, though I’m not entirely sure why Greenspan chose to make a case out of this,” said Lincoln Anderson, chief investment officer at LPL Financial Services in Boston. “The lower dollar will eventually force importers to raise prices, and that’ll help cut the trade deficit. But nonetheless, it was unusual for him to speak out on it like that, and it’s having an effect.”

The Dow fell 115.64, or 1.09 percent, to 10,456.91. It was the biggest single-session point drop for the Dow since Sept. 22.

Broader stock indicators also finished substantially lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 13.21, or 1.12 percent, at 1,170.34, and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 33.65, or 1.6 percent, to close at 2,070.63.

Yesterday’s performance pushed the major indexes to their first weekly loss after three straight weeks of gains, putting an end to the postelection rally on Wall Street. Most analysts, however, said the week’s trading, and especially yesterday’s losses, were a pause in an overall positive market, and added that stocks likely would continue to rise into the new year.

For the week, the Dow fell 0.78 percent, the S&P; 500 shed 1.17 percent, and the Nasdaq lost 0.71 percent.

Yesterday’s trading also was pressured by oil prices, which rose in response to a U.S. government report that showed a drop in inventory for distillates such as heating oil — critical as winter approaches. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $48.44, up $2.22, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Despite oil prices and Mr. Greenpan’s assessment of the trade deficit, analysts said the overall market remains strong, and that yesterday’s sell-off amounted to profit-taking after weeks of strong gains.

“Today is more of a blip on the screen, with people using Mr. Greenspan’s comments as an excuse to take some profits,” said Stewart Freeman, chief equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons. “We’re exiting a period of uncertainty with the elections and terrorism and worries about slowing profit growth, and I think we’re set up nicely to continue upward after this.”

Pharmaceutical stocks fell as investors digested Thursday’s Senate hearing over Merck & Co.’s arthritis drug Vioxx, which was pulled from the market because of a high risk of heart attack and stroke. The Food and Drug Administration was roundly criticized for the way in which it approves drugs. Merck shed 24 cents to $27.12, while rival Pfizer Inc. slipped 54 cents to $27.23 and GlaxoSmithKline PLC slid 82 cents to $42.77.

Nike Inc. lost $2.50 to $82.50 after the company announced that co-founder Phil Knight was stepping down as president and chief executive officer. Knight will remain chairman of the sports shoe giant, while William D. Perez, a top executive at privately held S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., will take over as president and CEO.

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. also has new leadership, recruiting former Viacom Inc. President Mel Karmazin as its new CEO. Sirius surged 45 cents, or 9.5 percent, to $5.17 on the news.

Midnight was the deadline issued by Oracle Corp. for shareholders of PeopleSoft Inc. to respond to the former’s $24-per-share takeover bid. Oracle plans to abandon its bid unless more than half of PeopleSoft’s shares are tendered by the deadline. Oracle fell 22 cents to $12.75, while PeopleSoft gained 25 cents to $23.17.

The Walt Disney Co. was up 29 cents at $26.66 after it beat Wall Street profit expectations on Thursday afternoon by 6 cents per share. The media conglomerate said strong results from its ABC television network and cable channels offset a poor performance in its movie division. The company reiterated its 2005 guidance, but warned that the first quarter could be weak.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 5-to-2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.53 billion shares, compared with 1.47 billion on Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 8.62, or 1.39 percent, at 613.44.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose less than 0.01 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed down 0.93 percent, France’s CAC-40 fell 0.83 percent for the session, and Germany’s DAX index dropped 1.05 percent.

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