Stocks mixed after two-day rally

Thursday, December 6, 2001

AP Business WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street took an expected break from its two-session rally Thursday, held back by disappointing retail sales reports and apprehension about a business forecast from Intel due out after the market closed.

Stocks drifted, leaving the major indexes almost unchanged but preserving the Dow Jones industrials' first close above 10,000 since Sept. 5. Analysts were pleased with the relative stability, noting the lack of strong selling suggested investors were feeling more comfortable about staying in the market.

The Dow slipped 15.15, or less than 0.2 percent, to 10,099.14, according to preliminary calculations. The loss cut short a 350-point runup that had begun Tuesday.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Nasdaq composite index was up 7.43, or nearly 0.4 percent, at 2,054.27 -- its second straight session to close above 2,000, a level not seen since before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.25, or 0.3 percent, to 1,167.10.

"We ran the one-minute mile this week; we're seeing a little bit of a breather," said Bryan Piskorowski, market commentator for Prudential Securities Inc. "The market is showing some great resiliency here. That's a testament to the bullish bias that's re-emerged on Wall Street."

Investors had been expecting anemic retail sales, but the extent of the softness -- it was the weakest November since 1990 -- surprised some. Discount retailer Wal-Mart fell 80 cents to $55.77 after reporting November sales that came in at the low end of expectations.

But Gap rose 75 cents to $14.33 despite reporting a 25 percent drop in November sales at stores open more than a year.

Tech stocks, which have fueled much of the market's recent advance, also struggled.

Cisco Systems, which issued an upbeat forecast Wednesday, rose 25 cents to $21.79.

Intel fell 45 cents to $34.16 ahead of an earnings update due out after regular trading ended. The stock has risen significantly in recent weeks on speculation its fourth-quarter and future projections will show business is improving. Bullish statements from the chipmaker could trigger strong buying, on hopes the battered tech sector is turning around.

Analysts attributed some of Thursday's fluctuations to investors seeking to cash in their gains after this week's big rally.

"There's probably a little bit of profit-taking going on today," said Christopher Wolfe, equity market strategist for J.P. Morgan Private Bank. "But I think the economic news, particularly the retail sales, were messy enough that that didn't help. If that news had been better, I think we might have been looking at a third day of gains."

Stocks have rebounded smartly since the selloff that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The Dow and S&P are up more than 20 percent, while the Nasdaq has advanced nearly 44 percent from the 2001 lows set Sept. 21.

Although market sentiment and conditions are improving, many on Wall Street have shown hesitance to leave too much money in the market. They are concerned that stock prices are rising too much, too quickly -- and that business won't improve fast enough to sustain the upward momentum.

Despite the disappointing retail reports, Wall Street did get some other positive economic news Thursday. The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits in late November took the biggest plunge in 18 years. And the Commerce Department reported orders to American factories in October posted the first increase since May.

But analysts say the market is more interested in monthly unemployment figures due out Friday. That report is considered a better indicator of job health.

Declining issues narrowly led advancers on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 1.45 billion shares, compared with 1.75 billion Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index gained 2.80 to 482.22.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 1.3 percent. In Europe, Germany's DAX index climbed nearly 0.2 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 advanced 0.7 percent, and France's CAC-40 was almost unchanged.

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