Originally created 05/15/04

Stocks end volatile session mixed

NEW YORK -- Wall Street struggled to at least a temporary bottom to its slide Friday, closing mixed as investors overcame some of their dejection over interest rates.

A Labor Department report that consumer prices rose 0.2 percent last month kept some buyers away from stocks. The growing worry in the market is that the Federal Reserve will raise rates higher than the quarter percentage point most analysts predict at its June meeting.

But some investors used the opportunity to buy blue chips such as financials and other growth stocks - stocks that had been hit hard in the selloff. That kept stocks from falling further.

"The market's had to deal with a lot of things, from interest rates to Iraq, the election, figuring out the economic numbers," said Kevin Caron, market strategist at Ryan, Beck & Co. "Given all these things had to take place in a relatively short period of time, the fact that we've just kind of gone sideways isn't a sign of weakness. It's a normal sideways motion for a market that's had to digest a lot of things."

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 2.13, or 0.02 percent, at 10,012.87, after losing more than 72 points earlier in the session.

Broader stock indicators were lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 0.74, or 0.1 percent, at 1,095.70, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 21.78, or 1.1 percent, to 1,904.25.

For the week, the Dow lost 104.47, or 1 percent, the Nasdaq slipped 13.71, or 0.7 percent, and the S&P 500 fell 2.99, or 0.3 percent. It was the third straight week of losses for all three major indexes.

While the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index rose 0.2 percent, less than economists had expected, the "core" CPI - excluding food and fuel costs - rose 0.3 percent, which was higher than forecast. While the figures were down slightly from March, the core CPI figure showed that inflation, which had been long dormant, was gaining strength.

Businesses continue to thrive, according to Friday's data from the Commerce Department. Business sales were up 2.9 percent in March, while business inventories climbed 0.7 percent the same month. However, the sales figure could be due to companies raising prices, triggering inflation, rather than increased demand.

"Overall, these numbers look fine to me," said Lincoln Anderson, chief investment officer at LPL Financial Services. "Sure, you'll see interest rates go up, but you've got to expect that. We're in a sustained recovery that's highly unlikely to be derailed."

Consumers don't seem to share in that bullish outlook. The University of Michigan's subscription-only consumer sentiment index remained steady at 94.2 in May. Analysts had been expecting a rating of 96.

Investor sentiment for technology bellwether Dell Inc. waned in the wake of its latest earnings. While the computer manufacturer matched Wall Street estimates with a 22 percent increase in first quarter profits, the company's inventory and second quarter outlook were worse than expected. Dell dropped $1.08 to $34.72.

Cisco Systems Inc. lost 52 cents to $21.24 after its board authorized an additional $5 billion for the company's stock buyback program.

Defense contractor Raytheon Co. was up 43 cents at $33.12 after it announced it will pay $410 million to settle a lawsuit in which shareholders claimed the company misled investors about its financial troubles.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 5 to 4 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 1.xx billion shares, compared with 1.79 billion on Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 3.41, or 0.6 percent, at 543.76.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.2 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 closed down 0.3 percent, France's CAC-40 slipped 0.3 percent for the session and Germany's DAX index lost 0.6 percent.

On the Net:

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

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


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