- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks shuffled to a mixed finish yesterday, rebounding from earlier lows as oil prices retreated after surging past $50 per barrel. An analyst downgrade of Intel Corp. pressured technology shares.

With the euro trading at $1.3080 against the dollar, a new record high for the European currency, Wall Street worried about a falloff in foreign investment and more expensive imports that could curtail consumer spending.

Crude-oil futures briefly surpassed $50 a barrel, but then retreated in volatile trading amid concerns about low inventories of heating oil ahead of winter. Light, sweet crude for January delivery soared as high as $50.25 per barrel before settling at $48.94, an increase of 30 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The last time Nymex futures closed above $50 a barrel was Nov. 3.

“Oil is obviously pressuring the market, the euro is at a record high, so the dollar is reacting to that as well as to general concerns about the deficits,” said Janna Sampson, director of portfolio management for Oakbrook Investments. “I think those are the two things really pressuring the market today.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 3.18, or 0.03 percent, at 10,492.60, after spending most of the day in negative territory.

Broader stock indicators were down, but also well off their lows of the day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.30, or 0.03 percent, to 1,176.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.91, or 0.04 percent, to 2,084.28, largely on weakness in the chip sector. The Philadelphia semiconductor index was down 0.73 percent.

Traders attributed some of the day’s lackluster trading to light volume ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, but few were concerned about it after several weeks of robust performance.

“We have overextended ourselves a little bit, but overall I think the economy has held in much better than expected, crude has gone back down and a lot of those bubbles of uncertainty are gone,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for VFinance Investments. “We’ll see what the holiday season brings, but I think it’s starting a little early today.”

Tech stocks retreated largely on a downgrade of Dow component Intel by Credit Suisse First Boston, which lowered its rating on the semiconductor manufacturer to “underperform.” Intel lost 73 cents, or 3 percent, to $23.37, on the downgrade, with CSFB blaming high inventories and lower demand for the move. The brokerage said it would move some of its assets into Texas Instruments Inc., which dropped 22 cents to $24.33.

American International Group jumped $1.35 to $64.20 after news it had reached a tentative deal with the Justice Department over its accounting issues. AIG also offered a settlement deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission, though no agreement had been reached.

McDonald’s Corp., another Dow component, rose 72 cents to $30.10 after the company announced that Chief Executive Charlie Bell was stepping down to focus on his battle with cancer. Vice Chairman Jim Skinner will replace Mr. Bell.

TiVo Inc., maker of television-recording devices, said its loss widened in the third quarter as it spent money to boost its subscriber levels. Still, its per-share loss was 11 cents less than Wall Street expected. TiVo shed 68 cents, or 12 percent, to $5.20.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.8 billion shares, compared with 1.76 billion on Monday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 3.01, or 0.48 percent, at 624.53.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.20 percent, France’s CAC-40 gained 0.15 percent and Germany’s DAX index fell 0.26 percent. Markets in Japan were closed for a national holiday.

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