Originally created 09/01/01

Slight stock gain fails to impress investors

NEW YORK - Wall Street ended a terrible week with a blip upward Friday, but the modest advance, the outcome of a difficult and choppy session, only underscored how fragile and fractious the stock market has become.

The gain wasn't enough to bring the Dow Jones industrials back above 10,000, one day after the blue chips fell below that mark for the first time since April 9.

An unexpectedly strong report on factory orders sent stocks surging early in the session, but the good news was quickly overshadowed by investors' longstanding concerns over the lackluster economy and disappointing company profits.

"There is no news here today that would say we're about to reverse this thing on a permanent basis," said Bill Barker, investment strategy consultant at Dain Rauscher in Dallas.

The Dow, up more than 100 points in the early going, closed up 30.17 at 9,949.75. For the week, it closed down 473.42, or 4.5 percent.

Broader stock indexes also were higher. The Nasdaq composite index rose 13.75 to 1,805.43, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 4.55 to 1,133.58.

The Nasdaq slid 111.37 for the week, or 5.8 percent, while the S&P 500 sank 51.35, or 4.3 percent, during the same period.

Friday's listless performance followed four days of declines that sent the Dow down more than 500 points, or nearly 5 percent. On Thursday, the Dow dropped 1.7 percent after a spate of bad economic and corporate news.

The fluctuations during Friday's trading were "just vacillation," said Jon Brorson, the director of equities at Northern Trust in Chicago. "Investors are in an 'I don't want to shoot until I see the whites of their eyes' mode."

Concerned about the market's previous sell-offs, investors have been reluctant to buy because they sense no immediate possibility for a recovery in share prices. They're also waiting in vain for a solid string of news from the government or companies that the economy might be ready for a turnaround.

"We need tangible evidence of a bottom to restore confidence," Mr. Brorson said.

"It's very hard to be confident and make any bold statements here about economic recovery when the people actually running the companies have no idea how business is going to be a few months from now," said Charles White, the president and portfolio manager at Avatar Associates in New York.

On Friday, advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 4-to-3 on the New York Stock Exchange.


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