- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors turned to profit-taking yesterday, leaving stocks mixed after nearly two weeks of solid gains. Another drop in oil prices limited the market’s losses.

With the major indexes up between 6 percent and 7 percent since Oct. 25, analysts said some selling was expected, though earnings and economic fundamentals remain sound. Some investors were hedging against an anticipated increase in benchmark interest rates after tomorrow’s Federal Reserve meeting.

“We had such a beautiful confluence of events last week, with a smooth election, with Bush winning a second term, and with Friday’s outstanding jobs report,” said Joseph Keating, chief investment officer at AmSouth Asset Management. “Now we’re seeing a very healthy pause as investors start to plan for the long term, as opposed to last week’s knee-jerk reactions.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.77, or 0.04 percent, to 10,391.31. It was the fourth straight gain for the Dow, and the ninth in the last 10 sessions.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 1.28, or 0.11 percent, at 1,164.89, and the Nasdaq Composite Index inched up 0.31, or 0.02 percent, to 2,039.25.

Crude futures tumbled as investors, reassured by last week’s oil inventory figures, grew more confident that the United States would have enough heating oil for the winter. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $49.09, down 52 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“I think this is a good day, even if the market isn’t up,” said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp. “So long as oil remains stable at or near these current levels, the market’s likely to manage any round of market-taking the way it has so well today.”

Trading was expected to moderate after last week’s heavy volume, as investors prepared for tomorrow’s Fed meeting. A quarter-percentage-point increase in the benchmark interest rate, to 2 percent, is considered a given by Wall Street. Investors were expected to again look closely at the Fed’s policy statement, expected after the meeting, for insight into the direction of the economy.

A number of stocks were pressured by fresh disclosures of government investigations. According to media reports, the Securities and Exchange Commission is probing trading practices at brokerages including Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Charles Schwab Corp., believing that the brokerages processed trades to benefit themselves rather than their clients.

Morgan Stanley dropped 92 cents to $52.83, Merrill Lynch lost 51 cents to $55.91 and Charles Schwab fell 9 cents to $9.63.

H&R; Block Inc. rose 17 cents to $49.54 despite news that securities regulator NASD has charged H&R; Block with fraudulently promoting Enron Corp. bonds shortly before the energy firm declared bankruptcy.

Microsoft Corp. announced a $536 million settlement with Novell Corp. over suspected anticompetitive practices in Europe. However, Novell said it would fill its own U.S. antitrust case against Microsoft this week. Microsoft slipped 6 cents to $29.25, while Novell rose 65 cents to $7.51.

Investors were encouraged by McDonald’s Corp.’s sales report for October, which saw a 7 percent increase in fast-food outlets open at least a year. McDonald’s rose 21 cents to $30.27.

Taser International Inc. surged $7.66, or 16.5 percent, to $54.15 after the Transportation Security Administration approved the company’s non-lethal stun weapons for use on board Korean Air planes.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by nearly 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.71 billion shares, compared with 2.18 billion on Friday.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.7 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed down 0.49 percent, Germany’s DAX index gained 0.13 percent for the session, and France’s CAC-40 slippped 0.11 percent.

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