Markets & Finance

Stocks Set to Fall at Open


Stocks were expected to open weaker Friday after a mixed session Thursday.

On Thursday, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial average closed lower by 51.22 points, or 0.60%, to 8,537.92. The broader Standard and Poor's 500-stock index lost 3.42 points, or 0.38%, to 901.54. The tech-laden Nasdaq, buoyed by strength in the telecommunications sector, finished ahead 2.70 points, or 0.19%, to 1,399.29.

Investors await still more economic news on Friday. Keenly anticipated on the heels of Thursday's bright retail sales numbers is the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index. The producer price index, which measurs prices paid to U.S. factories, farmers, and other producers, unexpectedly plunged 0.4% in November -- the largest decline in six months -- as costs declined for gasoline, computers and cars, a government report showed.

Few U.S. companies release earnings or host conference calls today. Computer Sciences (CSC) and Sabre Holdings (TSG) host calls. The European publishing giant Pearson (PSO) was down in European trading after saying it doesn't yet see an upturn in the advertising market in 2003.

Dow Chemical (DOW) fired president and CEO Michael Parker, citing poor financial results, and named William Stavropoulos as his replacement at the largest U.S. chemical maker.

Coca-Cola (KO) said it would no longer issue short-term earnings guidance.

Stocks expected to trade heavy include Micron Technology (MU) reports earnings next week and analysts are looking for a loss of $.20 a share. Shares are down 56% over the last year.

The oil cartel OPEC decided to raise immediate oil production by 1.3 million barrels a day, but also said producers would gradually move to lower output as peak winter demand subsides.

Treasury Market

Treasuries were mixed in price Friday morning after a sudden wave of selling, which MMS International says has anecdotally been tied to the duration gap for Fannie Mae's debt portfolio going positive, which could attract investors out of Treasuries. This represents a sharp reversal from the deeply negative duration gap only a couple months back. The drop in PPI is also thought to be mostly from the auto sector as well, which takes some of the starch out.

World Markets

European stocks were down Friday. In London, the FTSE index fell 70.50 points, or 1.79%, to 3,864.80. Paris' CAC-40 index slipped 38.60, or 1.23%, to 3,098.83. In Frankfurt, the DAX index lost 30.25 points, or 0.97%, to 3,081.63.

In Asia, stocks also fell. Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished the day down 192.62 points, or 2.21%, to 8,516.07. In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng index fell 85.35 points, or 0.87%, to 9,728.43.


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