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June 13, 2006 > Stocks ends downbeat week with moderate losses

Stocks ends downbeat week with moderate losses

by Christopher Wang

NEW YORK (AP), Jun 09 - Wall Street finished its worst week of the year with a moderate decline Friday as persistent unease over inflation and interest rates kept investors nervous about buying.

Stocks had appeared to steady themselves in morning trading Friday following several days of heavy losses. But a jump in import prices and increased demand for foreign-made products renewed the market's inflation jitters and sent stocks sliding by midday.

Since the Federal Reserve said in early May that more rate hikes could be needed to counter inflation, investors have been increasingly unwilling to place bets and bid stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average shed more than 355 points this week and is off 6.5 percent from a six-year high of 11,642.98, reached May 10.

Analysts say Wall Street's pullback has been exacerbated by traders repositioning their holdings to account for the risk of rising interest rates and slowing economic growth. But while stocks have slumped, investors were still unsure where to put their money.

"I think we still have to push the risky asset values lower relative to safe assets because there's been so much speculation that needs to be unwound,'' said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank, who added that the afternoon retreat was an ominous sign of more losses in the coming sessions.

The Dow slid 46.90, or 0.43 percent, to 10,891.92, after having been up 37 points earlier in the session.

Broader stock indicators also declined. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 5.63, or 0.45 percent, to 1,252.30, while the Nasdaq composite index lost 10.26, or 0.48 percent, to 2,135.06.

Despite the major indexes' retreat, advancing issues were just ahead of decliners on the New York Stock Exchange. NYSE final consolidated volume 3.31 billion shares trailed the 3.7 billion shares that changed hands Thursday.

The major indexes finished a nervous week with steep losses, saddled by concerns that rising interest rates would slow demand and hinder the global economy. For the week, the Dow dropped 3.16 percent, the S&P 500 sank 2.79 percent and the Nasdaq plunged 3.8 percent.

Bonds prices drifted, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipping to 4.98 percent from 5 percent late Thursday. Short-term yields continued lingering above long-term rates, signaling greater expectations of slowing economic growth.

Elsewhere, the U.S. dollar dipped against the Japanese yen and was flat versus European currencies, while gold prices stood near $610 an ounce. Crude futures gained amid political unrest in Iraq following the death of the country's main terrorist leader, with a barrel of light crude up $1.28 to settle at $71.63 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

While the Fed has been fixated on accelerating inflation, recent signs of economic weakness has investors fretting that the central bank might lift rates too high and derail the economy, said Jack Caffrey, equities strategist for JPMorgan Private Bank.

Next week's reports on wholesale and consumer prices will provide the latest clues on the economy's health and could spark more investor debate on the battle between economic growth and inflation.

"People will be thinking about what the Fed will be debating at their June 28-29 meeting,'' Caffrey said. "Investors are scared not necessarily about what the Fed will say, but of the possibility that the Fed may overtighten rates.''

The Commerce Department on Friday said the nation's trade gap widened by $1.5 billion to $63.4 billion - below estimates of $65 billion - amid higher oil prices and a flood of furniture, computers and toys from China.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said prices for imported goods grew 1.6 percent in May, or just 0.6 percent without petroleum. Export prices excluding agriculture rose 0.6 percent, the department added.

In corporate news, Texas Instruments Inc. raised its earnings and revenue targets for the second quarter, but attributed the gains to a legal settlement and a tax break. Texas Instruments nonetheless dropped $1.04 to $29.68.

Dow Jones industrial Coca-Cola Co. added 16 cents to $43.55 after Bear Stearns upgraded the beverage maker to "outperform'' on gains from a weak dollar and improved results in some of its major foreign markets.

The Dow got further support from Prudential Equity's upgrade of Alcoa Inc. to "neutral,'' citing an attractive stock price following a monthlong pullback. Alcoa gained 11 cents to $30.18.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 5.14, or 0.73 percent, to 701.39.

Wall Street's late-session recovery Thursday gave a boost to stock markets across the globe. Japan's Nikkei stock average advanced 0.81 percent; Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1.66 percent, Germany's DAX index jumped 1.5 percent and France's CAC-40 was higher by 1.79 percent.

The Dow Jones industrials ended the week down 355.95, or 3.16 percent, finishing at 10,891.92. The S&P 500 index lost 35.92, or 2.79 percent, to close at 1,252.30.

The Nasdaq tumbled 84.35, or 3.8 percent, to end at 2,135.06.

The Russell 2000 index closed the week down 36.07, or 4.89 percent, at 701.39.

The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index _ a free-float weighted index that measures 5,000 U.S. based companies _ ended the week at 12,629.22, down 406.56 points from last week. A year ago, the index was 11,899.93.

On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com

 
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