Stocks fall on earnings, election uncertainty, but end week mostly unchanged

By LISA SINGHANIA

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Another earnings warning — this time, from BellSouth — sent prices lower on Wall Street today. Dejected investors, focusing on high-tech issues, followed a now-familiar pattern and turned against any company expected to deliver disappointing earnings.

But the market was also looking for a reason to buy. Prices surged after a court ruling in the presidential election recount raised hopes of a resolution, but the rally quickly faded when investors realized the deadlock remained.

"This was a very difficult day," said Bob Dickey, chief technical analyst at Dain Rauscher. "The market was very volatile and ended up chopping back and forth, but basically in the end it didn’t lose too much ground, which is actually a good sign of some stability."

Indeed, the major indexes ended the week little changed, despite the market’s seeming mood swings and heavy trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down 26.16 at 10,629.87 today, finished the week up 26.92, or 0.3 percent.

Broader indicators showed even less change. The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index slipped 4.69 to 3,027.19 today and closed down 1.80 for the week despite a 133-point loss on Thursday.

The Standard &amp Poor’s 500 index fell 4.60 to 1,367.72, gaining 1.74 for the week.

BellSouth’s stock sank $4.50 to $42.50 after the company warned its 2001 earnings would be lower than expected because of the costs of expanding its wireless business.

The warning was the latest in a series of similar predictions by big firms. The cautionary outlooks have been compounded by the Federal Reserve’s announcement this week that it still sees the risk of inflation in the economy, and investors have reacted to the dreary predictions by selling.

Fiber optics company Broadcom tumbled $11.50 to $133, extending its $25 loss from the day before.

Among blue chips, banker J.P. Morgan slipped $3.88 to $144.16 and American Express fell $1.69 to $56.06.

But investors were bullish on some name-brand technology companies. Intel ended the day up $1.50 at $41.50; IBM rose $4.56 to $102.50.

For an eighth session, uncertainty about the presidential election’s outcome plagued the market.

Early in the day, stocks shot up after a Florida judge ruled that late votes did not have to be included in the state’s recount, but the enthusiasm didn’t last. And a ruling late Friday by the Florida Supreme Court forbidding the state from certifying any election results until "further order of this court" made hope of a quick resolution even less likely.

Analysts said naming a new president may help ease some of Wall Street’s volatility and make investors more comfortable about committing to stocks, but it won’t be a panacea for the market’s problems. They said slowing economic and corporate growth, along with European currency woes and oil prices, still remain serious obstacles for a yearend rally.

The month of November historically has brought the start of a rally to Wall Street, but a solid advance remains elusive. Since Oct. 18, the Dow has risen more than 1,000 points only to give back about half of that gain.

"It’s clearly not a ‘Brave New World’ once we clear the elections," said Bryan Piskorowski, a market analyst with Prudential Securities. "We still have to face the Euro and energy, and that’s going to impact all these stocks."

Advancing issues led decliners by a 12-to-11 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.06 billion shares, compared with 935.74 million shares in the last session.

The Russell 2000 index rose 0.97 to 482.61.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.3 percent. Germany’s DAX index was down 1.31 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 was rose 0.2 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 1.9 percent.

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

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