Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Broadly Lower


Stocks closed with solid losses on Wednesday over investor concerns related to weak economic growth and several soft earnings reports. Harley-Davidson (HDI) joined the growing number of U.S. vehicle manufacturers that have cut their 2005 earnings guidance, and retail sales were weaker than expected. Oil prices were lower.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 104.04 points, or 0.99%, to 10,403.93. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 13.97 points, or 1.18%, to 1,173.79. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 31.03 points, or 1.55% to 1,974.37.

U.S. retail sales for the month of March rose just 0.3%, falling short of median estimates of 0.7%. Te ex-auto component climbed only 0.1%, also below estimates.

Crude oil prices continued to push lower Wednesday as weekly oil inventories were greater than expected. The price of crude settled down $1.66, at $50.20 a barrel.

In earnings news, motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson posted earnings of 77 cents in the first quarter, vs. 68 cents last year. The company said U.S. retail sales fell short of expectations, and it cut its guidance for estimated vehicle shipments for 2005. The shares moved sharply lower Wednesday.

McDonald's (MCD) posted its first-quarter earnings Wednesday. The fast food chain saw 4.6% higher global sales, and posted earnings of 56 cents per share.

Pathmark (PTMK) posted fourth-quarter earnings of 8 cents per share on a 2.6% decline in same-store sales, vs. 32 cents per share last year. This put the super-market chain ahead of Wall Street estimates.

According to news reports, two top Morgan Stanley (MWD) investment bankers, Joseph Perella and Terry Meguid, will resign today.

After the close Tuesday Compuware (CPWR) said it would post fourth-quarter earnings between 6 and 8 cents, on revenue of roughly $316 million, falling short of market expectations. Standard & Poor's downgraded the stock to sell from hold.

Two marquee tech names reported quarterly results after the close of trading Wednesday. Apple Computer (AAPL) reported a 70% increase in gross revenue, and earnings of 34 cents a share, vs 6 cents a share last year. This beat analyst estimates.

But Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD) results fell short of Wall Street expectations, as the chipmaker posted a first-quarter loss of 4 cents per share, though its revenues were higher.

Up ahead on the earnings calendar, companies reporting quarterly results include Pepsi (PEP) on Thursday, and Citigroup (C) and General Electric (GE) on Friday.

On Friday the monthly index of industrial production is due out.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields regained ground following Wednesday morning's weak retail sales report. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note was 4.36%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished higher Wednesday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 14.60 points, or 0.30%, to 4,960.80.

Germany's DAX index was up 33.57 points, or 0.77%, to 4,405.69.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index rose 20.04 points, or 0.49%, to 4,116.85.

Asian markets finished mixed on Wednesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index fell 32.78 points, or 0.28%, to 11,637.52.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 141.57 points, or 1.04%, moving to 13,799.62.


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