Indexes mixed despite bargain-hunting

By DUNSTAN PRIAL

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Buyers moved selectively back into the stock market today, snapping up financial and technology issues after Wednesday’s dip. Selling in basic materials and retailing stocks left the overall market mixed.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 95.63 to 3,429.02, while the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 18.96 at 10,880.51.

The broader Standard &Poor’s 500 index rose 7.10 to 1,428.32.

The market seemed in search of a direction a day after the Dow and Nasdaq fell on a mix of profit-taking and a profit warning by WorldCom. Tech issues led the gainers, with Intel up $1.81 at $46.69 and Sun Microsystems rising $3.19 to $109.06.

Shares of Oracle fell, however, after rumors rippled through the market early in the session that CEO Lawrence Ellison and chief financial officer Jeffrey Henley planned to resign. The software company’s stock plunged as much as 13 percent before public denials from Ellison and Henley convinced investors the rumors were false. Still, Oracle shares closed down $1.81 at $29.56.

Amid the volatile trading, an order for 11,100 Oracle shares at $22.25 each – $10 below its opening price – was canceled. A Nasdaq Stock Market spokesman wouldn’t say why the trade was canceled, but noted that the Nasdaq doesn’t cancel trades because of rumors.

Financial issues were higher across the board. Merrill Lynch rose $1.31 to $69.81 after dropping Wednesday.

But weakness in materials companies issues like aluminum manufacturer Alcoa, which fell $1.31 to $27.75, and oil company ExxonMobil, down $3.88 at $88.19, kept the Dow treading water.

“There has been a pop-up in retail and material company stocks over the last couple of days, but it didn’t seem to have fundamental support. Rather it was more of a rotation toward stocks that hadn’t moved up yet,” said Ronald Hill, investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. “I think now we’re seeing that gain was short-lived.”

Many retailing issues have been trading down for months on worries that moderating economic growth would hurt their bottom lines. They had a mixed performance today after many of the big merchants announced October sales figures.

J.C. Penney was up 75 cents at $12 after initially falling on weak October sales. Wal-Mart was up $1.25 at $48 after reporting strong monthly sales but warning that its fourth quarter would be weak.

Warehouse retailer Costco rose 44 cents to $36.19, recovering from earlier losses after Banc of America Securities downgraded its stock. But Dow component Home Depot, which does not issue sales figures monthly, slipped $1.13 to $42.88.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by more than 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 1.38 billion shares, compared with 1.43 billion on Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index rose 11.79 to 506.97.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.23 percent. Germany’s DAX index was up 0.42 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 was down 1.02 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.14 percent.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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