Stocks finished modestly lower Tuesday after investors succumbed to new anthrax fears and couldn't shake off negative earnings reports.
A New Jersey postal worker was suspected of having the inhaled form of the disease, according to health authorities. Plus, the mayor of Washington, D.C. confirmed the bacteria caused the death of two postal workers in that city.
Among the stocks in the news, oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM ) said third-quarter earnings fell nearly 23% as crude oil prices dropped alongside a downturn in demand and overproduction by the OPEC cartel, according to news reports.
And in the technology corner, telecommunications equipment maker Lucent Technologies Inc. (LU ) posted a fourth-quarter operating loss and took an $8 billion charge as it restructured amid the gloomy telecom slowdown, according to news reports.
Despite Tuesday's narrow losses, A.C. Moore, chief investment strategist at Dunvegan Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif., says he anticipates future buying amid attractive valuation levels. "Between now and the end of the year, should markets maintain at least on balance positive money flows, investment managers far and wide are going to want to participate," Moore says.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 36.95 points, or 0.39%, to 9,340.08, hurt by losses in SBC Communications (SBC ), AT&T (T ), and McDonald's (MCD ). The telephone sector was weaker on news that Merrill Lynch downgraded SBC following the company's lower than expected third quarter results reported Monday.
The Nasdaq's three day winning streak came to an end as Monday's winners, semiconductors and biotechs, fell in profit taking. The tech-heavy index slipped 3.69 points, or 0.22%, to 1,704.39. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 5.90 points, or 0.54%, to 1,084.
U.S Treasuries closed flat to modestly lower. In economic news, U.S. chain store sales were lifted by a pickup in sales of Halloween merchandise, as consumers returned to stores after the four tumultuous weeks that followed the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg said on Tuesday, according to news reports.
U.S. chain store sales rose 0.5% during the week ended Oct. 20 from the previous week, after remaining unchanged in the previous week, the two companies reported in their Weekly Chain Store Sales Snapshot.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in remarks to the American Bankers Association, said the United States was "blessed" with a financial system flexible enough to survive the September 11 attacks.
European markets finished higher. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index gained 122.90 points, or 2.42%, to 5,193.30, in a carryover of Monday's gains on the perception the Bank of England may cut interest rates to bolster the economy.
In France, the CAC 40 was up 114.47 points, or 2.64%, to 4,455.76. In Germany, the DAX index climbed 70.30 points, or 1.52%, to 4,689.62, amid reports from three German states that consumer costs fell in October. The government there also was debating tax cuts and more spending to bolster the economy.
In Asia, the markets surged higher to close with substantial gains. The Nikkei climbed 296.15 points, or 2.80%, to 10,861.56. In Hong Kong, the market shot higher by 422.30 points, or 4.31%, to 10,219.84.
By Heesun Wee in New York