- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed lower yesterday as markets followed what has become a pattern at the sputtering end of this fourth-quarter rally: Early gains narrow through the day’s trading and occasionally turn to losses. The major indexes finished the week mixed.

Yesterday was one of the year’s four “quadruple-witching days,” so called because four kinds of options contracts expire. Historically, the days have meant higher-than-usual volatility and volume as investors cash in or renew their contracts; in 10 of the past 13 such days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has closed higher, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

Yesterday became one of the rare down “witching” days, with the Dow frittering away early, modest advances to go negative.

Tech stocks drooped, perhaps on recent middling results from the sector’s big names, such as Oracle Corp., which look worse compared with the recent sunny outlooks from industrial companies such as General Electric Co. and Honeywell International Inc.

Still, by afternoon, all the day’s gains were gone. “It looks like the rally we saw from the October bottom until late November is sort of stalled,” said Joseph Sunderman, director of trading at Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati.

The Dow fell six points, or 0.06 percent, to 10,876.

Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped three points, or 0.28 percent, to 1,267, and the Nasdaq Composite Index declined eight points, or 0.36 percent, to 2,252.

Crude oil futures fell. A barrel of light crude settled at $58, down $1.93 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bonds prices rose, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.44 percent from 4.47 percent late Thursday. The U.S. dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold prices declined.

The market struggled through another week without notable gains, as investors continued to consolidate their holdings despite generally strong earnings and economic reports. For the week, the Dow rose 0.9 percent and the S&P; gained 0.63 percent, while the technology and small-cap sell-off pushed the Nasdaq 0.19 percent lower.

Adobe Systems Inc. climbed $3.89, or 11 percent, to $38.82 after the company, which makes software such as Acrobat for creating digital documents, posted higher fourth-quarter earnings and gave an upbeat fiscal 2006 outlook.

Johnson & Johnson rose 70 cents to $60.86 after it said it would buy Animas Corp. for about $518 million, giving J&J; access to the market for insulin-delivery pumps.

Oracle fell 14 cents to $12.69 after the business software company’s earnings dipped 2 percent, depressed by an accounting charge that was largely due to its $11.1 billion takeover of PeopleSoft Inc.

Declining issues narrowly led advancers on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume was 2.71 billion shares, up from 2.21 billion shares Thursday.

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