- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — A grim combination of higher oil prices and lowered outlooks from companies including Colgate-Palmolive Co., Unilever PLC and the New York Times Co. sent stocks sliding yesterday. Blue chips bore the brunt of the selling.

The negative news from Colgate-Palmolive, its first profit warning in nearly a decade, and a brokerage downgrade of Citigroup Inc. pressured the Dow Jones industrials. Trading was light, as many investors stuck to the sidelines ahead of a key meeting of the Federal Reserve. But analysts noted unusually strong performance among semiconductor shares despite forecasts of slower growth from chip makers. The Philadelphia semiconductor index surged 2.9 percent.

The Dow was down 79.57, or 0.8 percent, at 10,204.89, after a drop of 0.3 percent last week.

The broader gauges also fell. The tech-dominated Nasdaq Composite Index, buoyed by chip stocks early in the session, gave back those gains and closed down 2.02, or 0.1 percent, at 1,908.07, following a weekly gain of 0.8 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 6.35, or 0.6 percent, to 1,122.20, after advancing 0.9 percent last week.

Energy costs and earnings outlooks have competed for investors’ focus in recent weeks, but attention returned to interest rates ahead of the Fed’s Open Market Committee meeting set for today. Most economists agree the Fed will continue to tighten short-term interest rates at a measured pace by raising the federal funds rate another quarter of a percentage point to 1.75 percent.

Growing anxiety about global oil supply sent crude futures higher as beleaguered Russian oil giant Yukos announced plans to stop shipments to China. The latest event to aggravate the oil market came just days after Hurricane Ivan menaced rigs and threw tankers off course in the Gulf of Mexico, cutting daily production in the region by half. Light sweet crude for October delivery settled up 76 cents at $46.35.

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