Stocks mixed amid corporate profits concerns

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NEW YORK -- Wall Street ended a volatile session mixed Wednesday as investors' growing concerns about the housing sector and rising oil prices intensified their uneasiness over a motley batch of corporate profits.

Earnings reports from Yahoo Inc. and Intel Corp. were upbeat and incited some buying in the technology sector, which drove the Nasdaq composite index sharply higher.

But the Dow Jones industrial average dipped, with investors nervous about how well corporate America overall will fare going forward -- particularly after International Business Machines Corp. reported modest software sales and United Technologies Group Inc. said 2008 will be challenging.

"I think the big concern is we know third-quarter earnings are going to be very weak," said Peter Dunay, an investment strategist with New York-based Leeb Capital Management. He added that investors are unnerved by lackluster forecasts for future quarters. "We're not getting very strong guidance numbers, and at the same time last week we were at new highs."

Moreover, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book that the U.S. economy cooled in the third quarter and uncertainty rose among businesses. The market was also unsettled as oil prices momentarily touched a fresh high of $89 per barrel.

Giving investors yet another reason to worry during the rocky session, Standard & Poor's cut the ratings on 1,713 classes of securities backed by mortgages issued in the first six months of this year. They were valued at $23.35 billion.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 20.40, or 0.15%, to 13,892.54, paring the session's worst losses. The Dow fell more than 130 points in earlier trading.

Broader indexes rose. The S&P 500 index climbed 2.71, or 0.18%, to 1,541.24, while the Nasdaq gained 28.76, or 1.04%, to 2,792.67.
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