wvu polo Stocks fall amid concerns over Iraq
NEW YORK Stocks slumped in listless trading Monday amid concerns about the upcoming Iraqi election and rising oil prices.
The major indexes closed at their lowest levels of the year.
Market watchers were growing increasingly concerned about January slide in stocks, which some analysts blamed on Wall Street strong fourth quarter performance. A car bomb attack in Baghdad, targeting the prime minister party headquarters, did little to ease the anxiety of investors ahead of Iraq Jan. 30 election. Oil prices declined early in the day, but settled up 28 cents at $48.81 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
general, the market is waiting for the elections in Iraq, said Barry Berman, head trader for Robert W. Baird Co. in Milwaukee. oil prices have been on the move up for the past week. Dow Jones industrials seesawed in and out of positive range through much of the day, closing down 24.38, or 0.23 percent, at 10,368.61.
Broader stock indicators also sagged. The Standard Poor 500 index fell 4.12, or 0.35 percent, to 1,163.75. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 25.57, or 1.26 percent, to 2,008.70.
Investors in the tech heavy Nasdaq, which is down 7.66 percent year to date, may have been unsettled when chipmaking giant Infineon Technologies AG warned that second quarter earnings could slow.
The Munich, Germany based company reported that first quarter net profits quadrupled thanks to one time license income.
The Infineon report probably part of the Nasdaq malaise, said John Caldwell, chief investment strategist for McDonald Financial Group, part of Cleveland based KeyCorp.
he added, the telecommunications sector has also been a problem, with Motorola coming in last week with a cautious outlook and Nokia earnings still awaited.
Overall, Caldwell said, strikes me as one of those days there a lot of activity but not much progress. also continued to eye quarterly earnings results. This week calendar of releases includes 10 of the 30 Dow industrials, along with more than 150 other major companies.
Among Monday gainers, Dow component American Express Co. rose 67 cents to $52.60 after reporting fourth quarter earnings of $896 million, or 71 cents a share a penny ahead of analysts estimates. The financial services company earnings surged 17 percent, thanks to record cardmember spending, higher average cardmember lending balances and strong travel sales.
Microsoft Corp., another Dow component, gained 2 cents to $25.67 after the Redmond, Wash., software company announced in Belgium that it will not appeal an interim European Union ruling forcing it to strip Media Player from its Windows platform.
Procter Gamble Co. fell 44 cents to $55.21 after UBS downgraded the stock to from on its recent price rise. While the 2005 outlook for P remains strong, the Cincinnati consumer products company good health is already factored into its price.
Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. also dropped, shedding 2.7 percent, or $1.08, to $39.03, after Merrill Lynch downgraded it to a from a saying investor expectations might be a bit high. Meanwhile, shares of Liz Claiborne Inc. rose 2.3 percent, or 92 cents, to $40.70, after Merrill raised its rating from a to a International Inc. lost 42 cents to $37.33 after CIBC World Markets downgraded the fast food company to perform from outperform. CIBC upgrade of McDonald Corp. sent its shares up 49 cents to $31.74. CIBC said Wendy faces a more difficult competitive environment in 2005, including greater competition from McDonald in premium products.
Declining shares outnumbered advancers by more than 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.89 billion shares,
compared with 2.04 billion traded Friday.