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June 27, 2006 > Wall Street slips lower on drop in factory orders

Wall Street slips lower on drop in factory orders

by Michael J. Martinez

NEW YORK (AP), Jun 23 - Wall Street finished the week with a listless session Friday as a decline in big ticket factory goods did little to assuage investors' economic worries and left the major indexes slightly lower. The market posted a modest loss for the week.

Durable goods orders dropped 0.3 percent in May after a sharp 4.7 percent drop the month before, according to the Commerce Department, the first back-to-back declines in two years. Economists expected orders to rise 0.4 percent. Corporate spending remained strong, however, giving investors hope that the economic slowdown may not be severe.

Yet with the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meeting Wednesday and Thursday - and widely expected to hike interest rates yet again - Wall Street's chronic anxiety about economic growth overshadowed trading, and likely will continue to do until the Fed's decision is announced Thursday afternoon.

"The business spending within the durable goods report was encouraging once you got past the headline numbers,'' said Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist for PNC Financial Services Group in Philadelphia. "But even with that, there's a lot of investors, if they've got an idea for a trade, they're not going to do it until you get past the Fed meeting.''

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 30.02, or 0.27 percent, to 10,989.09.

Broader stock indicators were just below the flatline. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1.10, or 0.09 percent, to 1,244.50, while the Nasdaq composite index dropped 1.51, or 0.07 percent, to 2,121.47.

Bonds continued their selloff from the previous session, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to a four-year high of 5.23 percent from 5.20 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Oil prices edged higher as traders remained concerned about rising international demand, tight refinery capacity and continued unrest in the Middle East. A barrel of light crude settled at $70.87, up 3 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

With energy prices potentially stirring inflation, the Fed has become increasingly hawkish on raising rates to combat rising prices, which has led some on Wall Street to consider whether policy makers may go with a half percentage point increase in the nation's benchmark rate. Most observers, however, predict another quarter percentage point hike, along with a statement saying the Fed may still raise rates down the road.

"If it's just the quarter point, and the Fed still says it could raise, then we could be in for a tough summer,'' said Jay Suskind, head trader for Ryan Beck & Co. "The only thing that could save the summer is corporate earnings, whether they come in strong enough so that the economy can weather the rate hikes, or weak enough for the Fed to stop raising.''

Concerns about rates dominated the week's trading, increasing volatility but ultimately leaving stocks little changed. For the week, the Dow slipped 0.23 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.56 percent and the Nasdaq fell 0.4 percent.

In corporate news, software maker Oracle Corp. saw its quarterly earnings jump 27 percent, beating Wall Street's forecasts by a penny per share after one-time charges for acquisition expenses. Revenues surged 25 percent for the quarter, and the company's forecast for the current quarter met analysts' projections. Oracle rose 57 cents to $14.90.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. dropped $3.49, or 7.2 percent, to $44.90 after the company said it would acquire two rivals, Kerr-McGee Corp. and Western Gas Resources Inc., for a total of $2.1 billion. Kerr-McGee soared $18.31, or 36 percent, to $68.61 on the news, while Western Gas surged $18.76, or 46 percent, to $59.67.

The merger gave a boost to other energy stocks, with Southwestern Energy Co. climbing $3.12, or 12 percent, to $30.09 and Consol Energy Inc. jumping $4.50, or 12 percent, to $42.81.

Amusement park operator Six Flags Inc. plunged as the company said it may have problems meeting its credit obligations and was looking to sell six of its properties. Six Flags tumbled 26 percent, or $1.90, to $5.55.

Declining issues barely outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange, where final consolidated volume came to 2.07 billion shares, compared with 2.28 billion traded Thursday.


The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 2.10, or 0.31 percent, to 690.14.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average slipped 0.08 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.14 percent, France's CAC-40 gained 0.3 percent for the session, and Germany's DAX index fell 0.07 percent.

The Dow Jones industrials ended the week down 25.46, or 0.23 percent, finishing at 10.989.09. The S&P 500 index lost 7.04, or 0.56 percent, to close at 1,244.50.

The Nasdaq fell 8.48, or 0.24 percent, to end at 2,121.47.

The Russell 2000 index closed the week down 2.93, or 0.42 percent, at 690.14.

The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index _ a free-float weighted index that measures 5,000 U.S. based companies _ ended the week at 12,549.96, down 44.98 points from last week. A year ago, the index was 11,843.88.


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