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Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2000

Profit fears send stocks tumbling

Trading slows as Labor Day approaches

August 31, 2000

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— Blue chip stocks tumbled in sluggish trading Wednesday as investors remained wary of a slowdown in profits in the second half of the year.

Shares of brokerage companies surged early in the session on news that Credit Suisse had agreed to buy Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette for $11.5 billion. But the boost wasn't enough to lift the broader markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 112.09 at 11,103.01.

Broader indicators were mixed. The Nasdaq composite index was up 21.64 at 4,103.81, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 7.25 at 1,502.59.

So-called old economy stocks fell after appliance maker Whirlpool said its earnings likely would fall in the second half following a major distributor's decision to leave the appliance business. In addition, the company said pricing pressures in North America and Europe also could drag down profits.

It was the latest in a series of profit warnings issued by old line, industrial companies.

After plunging early in the session, Whirlpool closed unchanged at $37.88. But Whirlpool competitor and Dow component General Electric fell $2 to $57.81 on similar concerns that pricing pressures would reduce earnings.

Retail stocks again were hammered on fears of reduced consumer spending in the second half of the year. Wal-Mart dropped $1.75 to $48.19.

John Caldwell, director of portfolio strategies for McDonald Investments in Cleveland, said investors traded mostly on momentum Wednesday, and, lacking any positive news, the momentum was downward.

Other Dow components such as IBM, down $2.56 at $130.31, fell on profit-taking after several days of gains, Caldwell noted.

"We're in a market where a lot of people are already leaving for the long weekend," added Al Goldman, chief investment strategist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. "Business is thin and nobody wants to take a big stance. There's just a lot of boredom on the floor."

Trading volume has been at its lowest levels of the year for more than a week now, with many traders taking vacations ahead of the long Labor Day weekend.

Brokerages and financial services stocks gained after Credit Suisse Group said it was buying DLJ for $11.5 billion, sending DLJ shares up $6.13 to $88.38 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shares in other financial companies rose on anticipation of further consolidation in the brokerage industry, including J.P. Morgan, up $2.06 at $151.06.

Helping the Nasdaq, Amazon.com rose $3.31 to $42.94 following some bullish comments from a Goldman Sachs analyst.

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