- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

NEW YORK — Stocks fell yesterday for the second time this week, led by energy and industrial shares, after a worse-than-forecast manufacturing report and higher stockpiles of oil spurred concern that the economy has fallen into a recession.

Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and General Electric Co. declined, helping erase a 76-point gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Target Corp. led losses in retailers after Citigroup Inc. told clients to sell the shares. SunTrust Banks Inc. fell the most in two months on a reduced credit outlook by Standard & Poor’s and Oppenheimer & Co.’s prediction that an imminent takeover of the lender is unlikely.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 17.5 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,342.53, its steepest loss since Feb. 14. The Dow decreased 142.96, or 1.2 percent, to 12,284.3. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 27.32, or 1.2 percent, to 2,299.78.

The Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies lost 1.9 percent to 696.28. About four stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

“The consensus is for economic growth to get weaker,” said Theodore Parrish of Henssler Financial Group. “I wouldn’t load up on any of the energy stocks at this point. They’ve had their run.”

All 10 industry groups in the S&P; 500 declined after the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index slumped to the lowest in seven years and the Conference Board’s gauge of leading economic indicators declined for a fourth straight month.

The market’s early gains were sparked by technology companies after Citigroup advised buying shares of Cisco Systems Inc. and Research In Motion said holiday sales of the BlackBerry e-mail phone were better than expected.

Exxon dropped $1.18 to $86.92. Chevron slid $1.56 to $84.78. Oil prices slipped 1.5 percent to $98.23 a barrel after the Energy Department said crude inventories climbed by 4.2 million barrels to the highest since November.

General Electric slumped 36 cents to $33.69. General Motors slid $1.24 to $24.30 on the weak economic data.

Target retreated $2.04 to $51.36. The discount chain was cut to “sell” from “hold” at Citigroup because of competition from Wal-Mart and reduced profitability at its credit-card unit.

SunTrust tumbled $3.19, or 5 percent, to $60.79. The seventh-largest U.S. bank had its credit outlook changed to “negative” from “stable” by S&P; because of rising losses on home loans. Credit problems may spread to other parts of the bank’s loan portfolio, S&P; said.

Oppenheimer downgraded SunTrust to “underperform” from “perform,” saying that the current credit environment will delay any acquisition offers.

Cisco slipped 1 cent to $23.19 after earlier climbing as much as 3.4 percent. Citigroup raised its recommendation on the stock to “buy” from “hold,” citing “attractive” valuations and “more reasonable” earnings expectations.

Research In Motion jumped $8.78, or 9 percent, to $106.69. The company originally predicted subscriber gains of 1.82 million in the current quarter and now expects as much as 2.18 million. Total subscribers will climb to about 14 million by the end of the quarter, Research In Motion said.

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