Stocks rally in anticipation of possible rate cut this week

Monday, November 5, 2001

AP Business WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- Investors bet Monday that the Federal Reserve would lower interest rates again this week, and the anticipation sent stocks spurting higher.

Wall Street was also focused on earnings from Cisco Systems due after the market closed. The tech bellwether's results are considered a key measure of the sector's overall health and prospects.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 117.49, or nearly 1.3 percent, at 9,441.03, according to preliminary calculations. It was the index's third straight session to advance.

Broader stock indicators fared even better thanks to heavy technology buying. The Nasdaq composite index rose 47.74, or 2.7 percent, to 1,793.47, while The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 15.61, or 1.4 percent, to 1,102.83.

"The market's thinking that the economic numbers that were reported last week were so soft that that the government will have to come through with a solid fiscal stimulus package soon ... along with lower interest rates," said Todd Clark, co-head of trading at WR Hambrecht.

The gains came a day before a Fed meeting that some market watchers expected to result in the 10th rate cut of the year. The Fed has been lowering rates since January in hopes of stimulating the sluggish economy. The Sept. 11 terror attacks gave the central bank new incentive to continue reducing, because of growing concerns the assaults have seriously damaged the economy.

With October consumer confidence at its lowest level in 7 1/2 years, many analysts now say the monetary stimulus provided by the Fed, in conjunction with any tax relief or other government packages, is key to an economic and business turnaround. Although there are no guarantees the Fed will indeed lower rates Tuesday, the hope on Wall Street is that the bank will feel compelled to act.

Cisco Systems rose 64 cents to $17.90 ahead of its first-quarter report.

Other tech stocks that were higher included Cisco rival Juniper Networks, up $3.10 at $22.58 -- a 15 percent gain that reflected a rebound from last week's selloff. Microsoft rose $1.87, or 3 percent, to $63.27, adding to an advance that began last week following word of the settlement of its federal antitrust case.

Among blue chips, Home Depot advanced $1.23 to $41.55, while General Motors gained $1.73, or 3 percent, to $43.98. Financial stocks, which benefit from interest rate cuts, also were higher. American Express rose 43 cents to $30.37, an increase of 1.4 percent.

"People are buying today with the expectation that it will be the second quarter of next year before the turnaround starts to take place," said Matt Brown, head of equity management at Wilmington Trust. "The stock market usually looks ahead about six months, so it doesn't surprise me then to see that people are starting to anticipate the ultimate rebound."

Still, stocks have had many false starts so it was hard to read much into the advance, which began early in the session and stayed strong. Since regaining much of their post-attack loss last month, stocks have seesawing as investors lock in profits from the big rally and look for new reasons to buy. Analysts say the market remains extremely fragile, and that more terror attacks or other bad news could further delay a recovery. The increasing number of layoffs is another threat to consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the economy.

"Expectations have come in dramatically. The speculative bubble is completely gone. So many people have been burned by the market recently," Clark said. "I don't think we're going to go a lot higher from here personally."

Advancing issues led decliners nearly 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 1.18 billion issues, compared with 1.12 billion Friday.

The Russell 2000 index rose 4.47 to 437.54.

Stocks were higher overseas, too. Japan's Nikkei stock average advanced 0.6 percent. In Europe, Germany's DAX index gained 3.8 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 climbed 1.6 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 2.7 percent.


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