Stocks End Mixed as Blue Chips Give Up Gains

Dell Computer's reaffirmation of earnings guidance boosted tech shares but the Dow headed south

Stocks ended mixed with the Dow sagging while the tech-heavy Nasdaq was propped up by Dell Computer (DELL ) after the PC giant said it was on target to meet expectations for its quarterly results.

More distressing world events after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks rattled investors with news a Russian airliner en route to Siberia from Israel had crashed. Ukraine denied reports that one its missiles had downed the craft by accident in a military exercise.

While Dell's announcement cheered investors, there was plenty of sobering news from other big-name companies. Top aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. (AA ) said its third-quarter profit fell 7.9%.

And the fallout from the September 11 continued to be felt. Retailer Neiman Marcus Group Inc. (NMG.A ) said its quarterly earnings would miss its expectations due to a big drop in spending since Sept. 11.

There was more news that the U.S. economy appears to be weakening. The number of Americans filing initial jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 29 rose by 71,000 to 528,000, hit by the softness in the economy as well as by secondary effects from the attacks, notes S&P MMS. The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims rose 29,500 to 453,000, remaining at its highest levels since in 10 years.

Investors will be looking for more clues to the health of the U.S. economy in the September employment report, scheduled for release Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET. S&P MMS expects nonfarm payrolls to decline 60,000, with the unemployment rate continuing to move higher -- rising to 5.0% from 4.9%.

The Dow Jones industrial average was off 62.48 points, or 0.68%, to 9,061.30 after rallying past the 9,000 mark on Monday for the first time since September 11. The Nasdaq Composite Index, meanwhile, added 16.36 points, or 1.03%, to 1,597.17. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index eased 2.73 points, or 0.25%, to 1,069.55.

Treasury Market

Treasuries ended mostly lower, with the 10-year note bearing the brunt of the selling. The Treasury Dept. surprised the market with a stealth $6 billion 10-year auction, which prompted some consternation from participants. But prices at the long end of the yield curve mostly absorbed the unprecedented surprise supply, aimed at alleviating dislocations in the repo market.

World Markets

European markets ended higher. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 134.40 points, or 2.75%, to 5016.20. Germany's DAX Index was up 111.47 points, or 2.51%, to 4,548.13. In France, the CAC 40 added 171.55 points, or 4.26%, to 4,195.80.

In Asia, major stock markets ended higher. The Nikkei rose 281.25 points, or 2.83%, to 10,205.48 as technology held onto gains after the strong showing in the U.S. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 389.25 points, or 3.93%, to 10,286.39.

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