Originally created 02/09/02

Stocks end losing stretch as investors bargain hunt



NEW YORK -- Buyers finally found a reason to go back to Wall Street Friday - irresistible prices following five straight days of selling. Stocks posted solid gains, lifting the Dow Jones industrials up more than 100 points.

But analysts don't expect the buying to last, given investors' fears about corporate bookkeeping and profitability.

The Dow closed up 118.80, or 1.2 percent, at 9,744.24 after recovering from an earlier drop of 45.12. The Dow recouped about 40 percent of its 294.56-point loss from the previous five sessions.

The broader market also finished higher after fluctuating throughout the day. The Nasdaq composite index rose 36.77, or 2.1 percent, to 1,818.88. The tech-focused index fell Thursday to its lowest close of the year and recorded its first five-session losing streak since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index on Friday advanced 16.05, or 1.5 percent, to 1,096.22.

The advance was largely attributable to bargain hunting, as the market has fallen since last Friday amid growing skepticism about the way companies keep their books. Wall Street's concerns were precipitated by the collapse of Enron in December.

But Friday's upturn wasn't enough to keep the market from suffering a loss for the week. The Dow ended the week down 163.02, a loss of 1.7 percent. The Nasdaq fell 92.36, or 4.8 percent, and the S&P declined 25.98, or 2.3 percent.

Analysts said a practice called short covering also contributed to the market's climb on Friday. Investors who sell stocks short - in essence betting that prices are headed lower - must buy stocks to cover their positions when the market goes against them.

Tyco, whose accounting has been questioned, rose $1.83 to $29.88 after saying its cash balance is strengthening. In a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tyco said it expects to have a cash position of $4.07 billion at the end of the current quarter, compared with $1.87 billion at the end of 2001.

Citigroup rose $1.35 to $45.49 after The New York Times reported Friday Citigroup had hedged against losing the $1.2 billion it lent to Enron. The report said Citigroup issued $1.4 billion in securities that acted as a safety net in case Enron was unable to repay its loans.

Triquint Semiconductor rose 74 cents to $10.49 after reporting fourth-quarter profits of a penny a share, surpassing Wall Street's expectations of a 2 cent loss. Additionally, US Bancorp upgraded its rating on Triquint.

Other tech gainers included Microsoft, up 85 cents at $60.65, and Texas Instruments, up 75 cents at $30.29.

While the buying was a welcome change, analysts doubt it would last long given the Enron-related concerns. The Enron debacle alarmed investors, who are questioning the ways that other companies record profits and sales. Combined with lackluster fourth-quarter earnings reports, investors have had little reason to buy.

"There is still skepticism with respect to this Enron scandal and whether companies are reporting accurately," said Bryan Piskorowski, market commentator for Prudential Securities, noting how it's practically a daily occurrence that a company's accounting practices are questioned.

On Friday, Qualcomm fell $1.65 to $37.46 after the Center for Financial Research and Analysis, of Rockville, Md., alleged the wireless communications provider's accounts were irregular.

The inability of companies to say when business will improve is also working against the market.

"More than anything else, no one has anything to hang their hats on. What reason do they have to buy stocks? None. So, you get a little rally and then people sell into it," said Richard A. Dickson, a technical analyst for Hilliard Lyons in Louisville, Ky.

Selling indeed has dominated the year so far, putting the market's major indexes in negative territory. The Dow has now lost 2.8 percent in 2002, the Nasdaq has fallen 6.7 percent, and the S&P has declined 4.5 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 1.70 billion shares, below Thursday's 1.76 billion.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, rose 8.27, or 1.8 percent, to 466.67. For the week, the Russell lost 13.37, or 2.8 percent.

Overseas, markets were mostly higher Friday. Japan's Nikkei stock average finished the day up 1.1 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 closed up 0.08 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 crept up 0.02 percent, but Germany's DAX index fell 0.6 percent.

On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com