Wall Street wanders through uncertain day

By AMY BALDWIN

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Wall Street spent today wondering how to turn the unresolved presidential election to its advantage, but stocks still ended a choppy session mostly lower amid the continuing political uncertainty.

With the election outcome hinging on a vote recount in Florida, investors returned to their recent trading pattern, focusing on and selling high-tech issues.

The tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index closed down 184.09 at 3,231.70.

The Dow Jones industrial average, unable to hold its gains, fell 45.12 to 10,907.06 after briefly hitting 11,000 earlier. The broader Standard &Poor’s 500 index fell 22.59 to 1,409.28.

Investors who have been trading carefully since Friday in anticipation of Election Day weren’t sure where to invest given the undecided presidency.

“Do you buy all service and oil stocks because of George W. Bush? Or, do you short health care companies because of Al Gore? Or, do you buy financial stocks because they’re safe? This is what’s going on in investors’ minds,” said Larry Rice, chief investment officer for Josephthal &Co.

Analysts predicted more of the same until the election results are known. Florida officials said the recount should be finished by the end of the day Thursday.

“Everyone’s going to sit and watch and wait,” Rice said.

Technology issues moved lower as investors remained uneasy about future profits. Investors began dumping tech stocks in September, before a litany of companies announced disappointing earnings and lowered their expectations for the current quarter.

Dell was off $2.25 at $30.31, while network equipment manufacturer Cisco lost $4.63, closing at $52.13.

Computer chip maker Intel, a Dow stock, fell $3.50 to $42.69.

“Investors have been getting out of tech stocks and being defensive by buying Dow and non-tech stocks,” said Dan Ascani, president and senior research director for Global Market Strategists in Gainesville, Ga.

Investors, who seemed poised by October’s end to put money back into the markets, are holding on to their cash, he said.

“We are missing some of the buy volume,” Ascani said. “Not knowing who is going to win as president means investors don’t know whether the president will be friendly to big business and corporate America. (For example), they are not certain about policies toward tobacco or pharmaceuticals.”

Drug and health care concerns built on early gains. Eli Lilly picked up $3 to close at $90.44 and Merck, a Dow component, rose $3.81 to $90.81. Health insurer Unitedhealth Group rose $1.75 to $110.50.

Food and tobacco company Philip Morris gained $1.69, closing at $36.69.

Financial firms, often considered safe buys in flat or down markets, were generally lower. Banker J.P. Morgan dropped $3.56 to $159.69. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which analysts downgraded earlier in the day, also fell $3.56 to $73.06.

Advancing issues matched decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 890.89 million shares, up from 873.61 million Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index was down 5.33 at 500.68.

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

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