Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Sharply Lower


Stocks lost ground on Thursday after some large companies reported disappointing earnings and outlooks.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 133.03 points, or 1.28%, to 10,281.1. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 17.96 points, or 1.5%, to 1,177.8. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index lost 23.13 points, or 1.11%, to 2,068.11.

In the energy markets, November West Texas Intermediate crude oil skidded $1.38 to $61.03 a barrel on Thursday, amid swelling U.S. crude and gasoline inventories and signs of slowing demand. Meanwhile, Hurricane Wilma was downgraded to a Category 4 storm, and was expected to hit Cancun, Mexico and could strike Florida this weekend, according to news reports.

With an empty economic calendar Friday, traders are looking ahead to next week, though there is little on the schedule to excite, says Action Economics. The next round of reports include September durable goods, third-quarter employment cost index, and advance third-quarter gross domestic product, all near the end of the week.

Disappointing earnings news pushed some major stocks down on Thursday. Pfizer (PFE) shares dropped after the company posted third-quarter EPS of 22 cents, vs. 44 cents a year earlier, on a 5% revenue drop. The drug maker sees a larger decline than previously forecast in 2005 revenue reflecting lower U.S. Human Health revenues. It sees $1.92-$1.94 2005 adjusted EPS, and $1.02-$1.04 reported.

Biotech stocks were also lower after Amgen (AMGN) reported solid third-quarter EPS results, but some on the Street not impressed with certain product sales.

Ebay (EBAY) posted third-quarter EPS (pro forma) of 20 cents, vs. 14 cents, on a 37% revenue rise. The online auction company sees 21 cents fourth-quarter EPS from operations on revenue of $1.25-$1.29 billion.

On the bright side, Google (GOOG) shares were jumping in after-hours trading after the online search outfit posted a jump in profits. Earnings for the quarter were $1.32 per share, vs. 19 cents a year ago, while revenue surged 96% to $1.58 billion.

Among the other major companies on the earnings calendar, McDonald's (MCD) posted third-quarter earnings per share of 58 cents, vs. 61 cents a year earlier, as higher operating costs offset a 4.1% same-store sales rise and 8% higher total sales.

Eli Lilly (LLY) posted third-quarter earnings per share of 73 cents, vs. 69 cents, on a 9.8% sales rise.

Ford Motor (F) posted third-quarter loss per share of 15 cents, vs. 15 cents EPS, despite a 4.4% sales rise. The auto maker sees 2005 results at the low end of $1.00-$1.25 EPS from continuing operations guidance.

Southwest Airlines (LUV) posted third-quarter EPS of 28 cents, vs. 15 cents, on a 19% revenue rise. The carrier says it's enjoying favorable load factor trends in October and that customer bookings for the remainder of the fourth quarter are good.

In economic news, the Philadelphia Fed index rebounded to 17.3 in October, higher than expected, after slipping to 2.2 in September as the storms' impact weighed.

U.S. initial jobless claims fell 35,000 to 355,000 in the week ended Oct. 15, from a revised 390,000. The data are in line with our expectations as hurricane distortions continue to fade, says Action Economics.

The September leading indicators index fell 0.7%, after a revised 0.1% decline in August, weaker than expected. This third consecutive monthly decline was driven by weakness in consumer expectations, jobless claims, and money supply, reports Action Economics. Offsetting was a rise in supplier deliveries.

Treasury Market

Treasury prices fell as the bond market remained defensive, with the 10-year note yield up slightly to 4.48% after the Philly Fed report, says Action Economics.

World Markets

European stock markets finished mixed on Thursday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was down 3.7 points, or 0.07%, at 5,164.1.

Germany's DAX index gained 18.27 points, or 0.38%, to 4,864.25. In Paris, the CAC 40 index rose 15.57 points, or 0.36%, to 4,390.66.

Asian markets finished higher. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index rose 60.97 points, or 0.46%, to 13,190.46. Stocks recovered modestly in Tokyo from recent weakness, but investors were cautious, awaiting clear signs of the earnings outlook at home and in the U.S., says Standard & Poor's MarketScope. And not all are convinced the Japanese market has finished with its corrective phase after gains pushed the Nikkei 225 and TOPIX to four-year highs in September, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 36.18 points, or 0.25%, to 14,408.94. Gains in index heavy-weights China Mobile and HSBC Holdings aided the Hang Seng, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.


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