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Indexes tread water as investors wait

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Wall Street waffled through an uninspired session yesterday, leaving stocks narrowly mixed despite solid results from Johnson & Johnson and several banking companies as investors waited for Intel's earnings report.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.37, or 0.1 percent, to 10,247.59.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, lost 29 cents to $27.60. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained 6 cents to $50.26.

Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.79, or 0.1 percent, to 1,115.14; the Nasdaq composite index was down 5.26, or 0.3 percent, at 1,931.66.

After the close of regular trading, Intel announced earnings that were in line with Wall Street expectations, but the company's sales were at the low end of Intel's previous outlook and slightly less than analysts had forecast.

Investors were looking to Intel's results for a better read on the health of the technology sector, which was hit hard over the past week with analyst downgrades and lowered outlooks. Intel's third-quarter and 2004 outlooks, while strong, were somewhat disappointing for investors hoping for a pleasant surprise.

Despite the negativity surrounding earnings — investment firm Merrill Lynch missed its earnings estimates yesterday — some analysts saw reasons for hope.

"I think some of the earnings expectations have been lowered over the past few weeks, and that'll be built into prices," said Doug Sandler, chief equity strategist at Wachovia Securities. "That does give us some room to the upside of this trading range we're stuck in should earnings come in strong."

The Commerce Department's latest report on the nation's trade deficit gave the market a lift. The trade deficit narrowed to $46 billion in May, dropping 4.5 percent from April's all-time high. U.S. exports had their best month on record, the department said, helped in part by a weaker dollar.

However, investor focus remained with earnings and, in particular, companies' outlooks for the second half of the year, which call for slower growth. Add that to concerns over terrorism, election-year politics and ever-present interest-rate concerns, and investors "are going to be sitting on their hands," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp.

"What we see right now is the market bumping up against a wall of worry," Johnson said.

"For every investor, there's something to worry about. And that's why, even though second quarter should come in strong, it won't be enough to really spark anything."

The profit of 27 cents per share that Intel posted may have met Wall Street estimates, but investors were clearly disappointed in the company's sales and outlook. Intel closed the regular session down 10 cents at $26.14, and the stock fell an additional 99 cents to $25.15 in after-hours trading.

Johnson & Johnson saw its sales climb 11.1 percent from a year ago, crediting its pharmaceutical and medical devices for the rise. The company earned $2.5 billion in the quarter, beating Wall Street estimates by 3 cents per share. J&J climbed 49 cents to $55.38.

Merrill Lynch fell $1.67 to $49.80 after missing Wall Street expectations by 3 cents per share for the second quarter because of losses from investment banking and overseas businesses.

The rest of the financial sector was mixed even as three banks beat expectations for the quarter. BB&T was down 12 cents at $37.26, AmSouth Bancorp gained 12 cents to $24.91, and Commerce Banc fell 92 cents to $54.26.

Newspaper publisher Gannett announced earnings that were in line with estimates, boosting profits by 9 percent from a year ago. But Media General, which runs broadcast stations and major metropolitan newspapers, missed its estimates by 6 cents per share.

Gannett climbed 99 cents to $82.38, while Media General lost 8 cents to $62.52.

In its first day on the New York Stock Exchange, Domino's Pizza traded at $13.50, 50 cents below its offering price of $14 per share.






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