Stocks retreat from Tuesday’s gains

By AMY BALDWIN

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Stocks turned abruptly lower today when an earnings warning from Bank of America incited a wave of selling and wiped out much of Tuesday’s big advance in the Dow industrials. High-tech stocks also fell sharply.

A mid-afternoon statement from the nation’s second largest banking company intensified selling that began in after-hours trading Tuesday, when Apple Computer issued its own warning of disappointing earnings.

The warnings killed Tuesday’s euphoric rally, which began after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan hinted that the Fed is inclined to lower interest rates early next year.

“It brought us back to earth,” said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp., of the latest batch of bad earnings news. “It’s a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet.”

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 234.34 to close today at 10,664.38. The losses obliterated a big chunk of the Dow’s 338-point gain Tuesday.

The Nasdaq composite index lost 93.30 to end at 2,796.50. The tech-focused index had advanced 274 points or 10.5 percent on Tuesday, the Nasdaq’s biggest one-day percentage and point gains ever.

The broader Standard &Poor’s 500 index fell 25.08 to 1,351.46 following Tuesday’s 51-point gain.

But Tuesday’s buying spree “was probably overdone,” said Barry Berman, head trader for Robert W. Baird &Co., reasoning that investors are still grappling with plenty of uncertainty.

“The presidential election hasn’t been resolved yet … There is still uncertainty about earnings for next year,” Berman said.

Bank of America skidded $3.19 to close at $38 after warning of poor earnings and saying that it is budgeting for significantly higher loan and credit losses in 2001. The banking company’s announcement was particularly painful because financial stocks recently had been seen as a relatively safe haven amid the volatility in the high-tech sector.

Apple slid $2.69 to $14.31. The company said Tuesday it is losing money this quarter and that a sales slump will drive earnings well below analysts’ forecasts.

In recent months, similar announcements from tech companies have led to huge selloffs on Wall Street. More companies are expected to issue earnings warnings and poor quarterly results even if the Fed reduces interest rates early next year. That means it’s too soon for the market to have a rally with some momentum, analysts said.

“It’s not going to have a significant impact on the sales and earnings of companies for at least nine months. And, during that period we are going to have to slug our way through one report after another of companies telling us that their earnings are disappointing,” said Johnson of First Albany.

“At some point, we will see enough light at the end of the tunnel in which outlook for earnings will brighten. But we’re just not there yet. It’s that simple.”

Other personal computer makers suffered. Compaq dove $4.25 to $20.12 and Gateway fell $1.82 to $17 after Credit Suisse First Boston downgraded both stocks.

Yahoo! tumbled $6.38, or 14.5 percent, to $37.50 after Internet analyst Henry Blodget of Merrill Lynch reduced his earnings and revenue estimates for the Web portal through June. Blodget cited a decline in Internet advertising.

Some of the Dow’s tech issues also fell. Chip maker Intel lost $4.25 to finish at $31.75. Microsoft ended down $3.19 at $56.69.

Among blue chips, retailers were hurt by declining consumer confidence and a lackluster holiday shopping season. Limited fell $1.31 to $17.94, and Best Buy lost $1.81, closing at $28.81.

Pharmaceuticals also posted losses, even though the sector is considered a safer bet in a bearish market or a slowing economy. Drug maker Johnson &Johnson slipped $3.19 to $96.13.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was 1.36 billion shares, down from Tuesday’s 1.38 billion.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of smaller companies, ended down 7.63 at 463.54.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.3 percent. European markets fell slightly. Germany’s DAX index lost 0.2 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 fell 0.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 slipped 0.2 percent.

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

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