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Market Watch

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 09, 2001

Skittishness about future earnings sent financial issues lower Tuesday, while technology stocks advanced modestly in subdued trading. 

Better-than-expected earnings from tech bellwether Cisco Systems after the market closed didn’t impress investors, who sent the networking company lower in late trading. Other technology issues were also weak in the extended session. 

“On the surface, the numbers look OK, but the key is going to be Cisco’s guidance about business conditions going forward,” said Todd Clark, co-head of trading at WR Hambrecht. “It’s still unclear how the tech sector is going to perform in months ahead.” Anticipation about Cisco’s results and forecast pulled the market lower throughout the regular session because the networking company is widely viewed as a predictor of where corporate profits will head in coming months.  

— The Associated Press 

Stocks advanced strongly in April and have held most of their gains, but anxiety about the future remains strong. 

Cisco dipped 72 cents to $19.65 in late trading, despite a $1.12 gain to $20.37 during the day, as the company beat Wall Street’s reduced expectations by a penny but provided limited guidance about coming months. 

Those results didn’t help the broader sector. Rival Nortel Networks slipped 42 cents to $16.12, giving back some of its 51 cent gain in the regular session. 

Market watchers say Wall Street likely will remain cautious until May 15, when the Federal Reserve decides whether to cut interest rates again. So far, the Fed has cut rates four times this year in an attempt to revive the staggering economy. 

Tuesday’s economic data added to the tentativeness. 

The Labor Department reported that Americans’ productivity, a key measure of rising living standards, fell at a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter, the first decline in six years. The department also reported that unit labor costs jumped by a 5.2 percent rate in the first quarter, the biggest increase since the fourth quarter of 1997, when they rose at a 5.5 percent rate. 

Labor costs are a potential inflationary pressure — a factor that could discourage the Fed from further lowering interest rates. 

“This market needs an interest rate cut catalyst. It’s certainly not going to get a catalyst from earnings,” said Richard Cripps, chief market strategist for Legg Mason of Baltimore. “What I’m concerned about is that we’re getting less maneuvering room by the Fed for such a cut because the signs of inflationary pressure appear to be increasing.” 

The Dow slipped on losses in two of its highest-profile financial components. American Express fell $1.93 to $41.30, helped by a downgrade by Morgan Stanley on worries that consumers would be less likely to spend and borrow money. J.P. Morgan Chase dropped $1.45 to $47.75 on similar concerns. 

In the technology sector, Ciena rose $6.32 to $61.60, an 11 percent gain, on news of a contract worth upward of $150 million. 

But those gains were limited by Dell’s news that it would cut another 3,000 to 4,000 jobs — up to 10 percent of its work force — and make other employees to take unpaid time off. The world’s largest PC maker still expects to meet its previous earnings forecast, but investors still sent shares down $1.08 to $24.83. 

Advancing issues led decliners 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was 1.21 billion, compared with 1.13 billion Monday. 

The Russell 2000 index rose 2.13 to 491.77. 

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average slid 1.7 percent. Germany’s DAX index fell 0.2 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 rose 0.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 gained 0.3 percent. 


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