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Shares Don't Move Much as More Earnings Are Awaited

Associated Press
July 14, 2004

Stocks were narrowly mixed yesterday despite solid results from Johnson & Johnson and several banking companies, as investors waited for Intel's earnings report after the close of trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.37 points, or 0.1 percent, to 10,247.59. Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.79 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,115.14, while the Nasdaq composite index was down 5.26, or 0.3 percent, at 1,931.66.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 0.45, or 0.1 percent, at 562.69.

Despite the negativity surrounding earnings - Merrill Lynch, for example, 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 trade deficit gave the market a lift. The deficit narrowed to $46 billion in May, dropping 4.5 percent from April's record. American exports had their best month on record, the department said, helped in part by a weaker dollar.

But investor focus remained with earnings and, in particular, companies' outlooks for the second half of the year, which call for slower growth rates. 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.

"What we see right now is the market bumping up against a wall of worry," Mr. Johnson said. "For every investor, there's something to worry about. And that's why, even though the second quarter should come in strong, it won't be enough to really spark anything."

Investors were looking to Intel's results for a better read on the health of the technology sector, which was hit hard over the last week with analyst downgradings and lowered outlooks. Intel's forecasts for the third quarter and for the year, while strong, were somewhat disappointing for investors.

Intel, which posted a profit of 27 cents a share, closed the regular session down 10 cents, at $26.14, and the stock fell $1.26, to $24.88, in after-hours trading.

Johnson & Johnson, citing its pharmaceuticals and medical devices, said sales climbed 11.1 percent from a year ago. The company earned $2.5 billion in the quarter, or 82 cents a share, beating Wall Street estimates by 3 cents a share. The shares climbed 49 cents, to $55.38.

Merrill Lynch fell $1.67, to $49.80, after missing Wall Street expectations by 3 cents a 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 all 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.

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

Advancing issues barely outnumbered decliners on the Big Board, where volume came to 1.2 billion shares, compared with 1.13 billion on Monday.

 

 

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