Stocks fall; Nasdaq drops below post-Sept. 11 closing low
AP Business WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- Mounting concerns about accounting scandals and the health of the nation's businesses prompted investors to again sell stocks sharply lower Monday. The high-tech dominated Nasdaq composite index finished under its-post Sept. 11 closing low, while the Dow Jones industrials tumbled 130 points.
The Nasdaq also reached its lowest close in five years.
Skittish investors ignored an upbeat report about the nation's manufacturing activity, focusing instead on negative company news as they await the next round of corporate earnings reports to get a clearer picture of how businesses are faring.
"There is an overall distrust of Wall Street and so people are ignoring the economic data," said Brian G. Belski, fundamental market strategist at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
The Dow fell 133.33, or 1.4 percent, to 9,109.93, according to preliminary calculations.
The broader market also dropped sharply. The Nasdaq fell 59.38, or 4.1 percent, to 1,403.83 -- below its post Sept. 11 low of 1,423.19 on Sept. 21. It was the lowest close for the index since June 10, 1997, when it finished at 1,401.69.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 21.17, or 2.1 percent, to 968.65, less than 3 points above its Sept. 21 close.
The Dow was still about 840 points above its post-Sept. 11 closing low.
Monday's economic data was mixed. The Commerce Department said construction spending fell by 0.7 percent in May to the lowest level in five months.
But the Institute for Supply Management said its index of business activity rose to 56.2 percent in June from 55.7 percent in May. It was the fifth straight month that manufacturing activity increased.
"These are the best levels we've seen in two years in terms of manufacturing data," said Kevin Caron, market strategist at Ryan, Beck & Co. LLC. "It will ultimately lead to higher earnings, which is what we need to see for stock prices to move higher."
But many investors are waiting to see results of earnings reports for the second quarter scheduled to begin next week.
"Corporate America really needs to step up in the second quarter and show that companies are not going out of business and they are in fact doing business," Belski said.
Manufacturer 3M rose $4.40 to $127.40 after the company said it expects to beat analysts' expectations for second-quarter earnings because of operating efficiencies and higher sales volumes.
WorldCom shares fell 77 cents, or 93 percent, to 6 cents after the telecommunications company told the government Monday it is investigating possible irregularities in its reserve accounts. That is in addition to the $3.8 billion in disguised expenses the company disclosed last week.
WorldCom's stock had not traded since last Tuesday, when it revealed its accounting problems, and Nasdaq said it will be delisted on Friday. Volume in the company's stock totaled 1.47 billion shares -- a record for a single day's dealings in an individual issue on any stock market.
The previous record, 670.53 million shares, was set only on May 14, also by WorldCom.
Electronic Data Systems, a major provider of information technology services to WorldCom, dropped $6.70, or 15 percent, to $30.45.
TRW fell 40 cents to $56.58 after defense contractor Northrop Grumman said Monday it agreed to buy TRW for $7.8 billion, nearly $2 billion more than its original offer.
The market has been pounded since mid-May because of a string of strife in the Middle East, grim expectations for second-quarter earnings and accounting scandals at companies such as Xerox and Enron. Analysts say investors are not only worried about the outcome of second-quarter earnings reports, but also whether those results are accurate.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a margin of more than 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was heavy.
The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, fell 14.92, or 3.2 percent, to 447.73.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished Monday down 0.3 percent. In Europe, Germany's DAX index fell 0.4 percent, France's CAC-40 fell 0.02 percent, and Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent.
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