The Associated Press
Wednesday May 16, 2001

NEW YORK — Wall Street got the interest rate cut it had been hoping for Tuesday, but that wasn’t enough to put investors in a buying mood. 

Instead, the market ended the session virtually unchanged, with blue chips falling slightly and tech issues managing a small gain. Analysts attributed the lukewarm reaction to the fact the reduction was expected, as well as broader concerns about still-weak business conditions. 

“The market got what is was expecting, so this is basically a non-event,” said Matt Brown, head of equity management at Wilmington Trust. “The good news is that with five interest rate cuts in four-and-a-half months, we’ve now got the wind at our back. The second quarter should still be weak but we’re very confident the economy will start to improve this fall.” 

The Fed indicated its decision Tuesday to lower interest rates by a half point was due to concerns about various drags on the economy, including a decline in business investment in new equipment. 

But the rate reduction failed to spark a strong rally on Wall Street, as many previous announcements have done. Although the major stock indexes did advance on the Fed’s move, those gains faded as the session wore on. In the technology sector, Microsoft fell 45 cents to $68.27, while Texas Instruments rose 24 cents to $37.03 after reiterating a second-quarter outlook that includes double-digit revenue losses. 

Retailing, manufacturing and other non-technology issues were also mixed. Wal-Mart slipped $2.35 to $52 after meeting previously reduced expectations for its first quarter but warning that double-digit growth won’t return until the second half of its fiscal year. 

The Fed’s move was closely watched because, in the absence of strong profits or other encouraging news, Wall Street has been increasingly looking to interest rate cuts as a catalyst on which to rally. As a result, the markets traded in a narrow range for much of the week leading up to the Fed’s announcement. Investors were also unnerved by speculation that the Fed would cut rates by less than a half percentage point. Now the market must look for other good news to advance on, but analysts say that might not come along for a while. 

— The Associated Press 



Pre-announcements for second-quarter results, which are expected to be weak, will start rolling in next month. And no one knows whether the Fed will cut rates again, although the statement issued Tuesday suggests that the action is not out of the question. 

The tone of and level of concern in the statement caught many off guard. 

“I thought their statement was surprisingly aggressive. They said that they may lower rates again if conditions continue to deteriorate,” said Bill Barker, investment strategy consultant at Dain Rauscher. “But we’ve got six weeks until their next meeting with the unlikely prospect of an intra-meeting cut before then.” 

Advancing issues led decliners 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 1.28 billion shares, compared with 1.02 billion Monday. 

The Russell 2000 index rose 2.99 to 489.63. 

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.3 percent. Germany’s DAX index advanced nearly 0.1 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 was up 2.7 percent, and France’s CAC-40 gained 1.0 percent.