FINANCIAL MARKETS : Stocks Fall Again on Earnings Fears

From Times Staff and Wire Services

The U.S. stock market was mostly lower Tuesday as worries about forthcoming third-quarter corporate earnings reports continued to encourage profit-taking.

Many stocks lost ground despite another decline in bond yields and a rise in the dollar. Long-term bond yields hit 19-month lows.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City the slumping Bolsa stock index fell further, losing 14.88 points to 2,277.08, though it recovered from much deeper losses early in the session.

On Wall Street the Dow Jones industrial average eased 11.56 points to 4,749.70 in another yo-yo session that saw the blue-chip index off as much as 40 points early in the day.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 13 to 9 on the New York Stock Exchange. For a second day the Nasdaq market of mostly smaller stocks suffered the brunt of the selling. Nasdaq losers swamped winners by 22 to 12.

The Nasdaq composite index dropped 7.12 points to 1,020.45.

Trading activity slowed sharply at about 1 p.m. EDT, the time O.J. Simpson's acquittal was announced. Bloomberg Business News reported that the streets in New York's Wall Street district were deserted at verdict time, while area bars were filled with people watching TV.

In Chicago, Bloomberg said, the normally frenzied traders in the pits at the Chicago Board of Trade stopped trading futures on the December corn contract, usually the most active contract traded by far, for a full 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Trading in wheat and soybean futures also stopped for more than a minute.

But activity quickly returned to normal after the verdicts were read, traders said.

Analysts said stocks' continued downtrend on the second trading day of the fourth quarter largely reflected fears that third-quarter corporate earnings will be disappointing, because of the sluggish economy.

"You have queasiness in anticipation of the upcoming earnings season," said Jon Groveman, president of Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co. in New York.

In a sign of how nervous investors are, another rally in bonds and the dollar failed to help stocks much on Tuesday.

The yield on the Treasury's 30-year bond fell to a fresh 19-month low of 6.45% from 6.47% Monday, reflecting increasing belief that the economy will remain sluggish in the near-term.

The dollar, meanwhile, rose to a 12-day high against the Japanese yen amid expectations that the world's leading industrial nations will act to bolster it.

Monetary officials from the Group of Seven nations will gather in Washington this weekend. When they met in April, G-7 officials pledged to work together to bring about an "orderly reversal" of the dollar's slide to post-World War II lows against the German mark and yen.

In New York the dollar ended at 101.35 Japanese yen, up from 100.35 yen on Monday, and at 1.436 German marks, up from 1.429.

Among Tuesday's market highlights:

* Industrial stocks led the market lower on earnings worries. Alcoa fell 1 7/8 to 50 1/2, Dupont sank 1 3/8 to 65 7/8, GM lost 1 1/4 to 45 3/8 and Georgia-Pacific gave up 1 7/8 to 85 1/4.

A Monday report from corporate purchasing managers showed continued weakness in the manufacturing sector during September.

As a result, economy-cyclical stocks "are taking it on the chin," one trader noted.

* In the technology sector, Systems & Computer Technology, a computer management services company, predicted weaker than expected earnings, blaming lower fees and higher costs. Its stock fell 6 1/2 to 19 5/8.

* On the upside, stocks sensitive to interest rates, such and banks and utilities, continued to gain as perceptions of a weaker economy fueled the expectation that the Federal Reserve Board will cut interest rates again.

Bank stocks benefit from lower rates because they reduce banks' cost of borrowing. Lower rates help utility stocks because they make the dividends paid by those stocks more attractive than interest-bearing investments.

Wells Fargo Bank was a big winner, rising 8 1/2 to 198 1/2 after a Bear Stearns analyst raised his earnings projection.

H.F. Ahmanson added 1/8 to 25 7/8 after the S&L; holding company announced a $250-million stock buyback program.

* Drug, food and other classic growth stocks surged. Bristol-Myers leaped 2 3/4 to 75 1/8, Pfizer jumped 2 1/8 to 55 3/8 and Kellogg soared 1 7/8 to 74 5/8.

Alfred Goldman, analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis, noted that many investors recently have been simply transferring money from one group of stocks to another--mainly from industrial issues to consumer issues.

"One day people feel good about the economy and the next day they don't. [Tuesday] was the day to take profits in some of the economically sensitive stocks."

Goldman said he remains optimistic, noting that market again snapped back from a deep early loss. "Bull markets bend, but they don't break. That's exactly what this market is doing," he said.

In Mexico, meanwhile, bargain-hunters surfaced after the market plummeted early in the day, on the heels of Monday's big decline. Investors there have been fretting about a weakening peso and rising interest rates.

In Tokyo, the key 225-share Nikkei average closed up 403.15 points at 18,142.99.

In U.S. commodities trading, the natural gas market gave back more than half Monday's gains, with November gas skidding 8.5 cents to $1.809 per million British thermal units at the New York Mercantile Exchange. A storm threat to the Gulf Coast receded somewhat.

November crude fell 8 cents to $17.56 a barrel, November gasoline dropped 0.85 cent to 51.93 cents a gallon, and November heating oil firmed 0.02 cent to 49.28 cents.

Market Roundup, D6

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