Stocks Stabilize, Rise Slightly

Thursday, March 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market stabilized Thursday following three days of volatile trading, but tense investors traded cautiously amid continuing uncertainty about the economy in this country and overseas.

Although the market was hoping that the 317-point plunge blue chips took Wednesday would inspire a rally, investors saw little reason to do much buying.

In midday trading Thursday on Wall Street, the Dow advanced 59.07 to 10,032.53 after rising more than 100 points earlier. The Dow fell below 10,000 on Wednesday for the first time in five months and fluctuated above and below that milestone throughout Thursday's dealings.

Broader market indicators also got a slight boost. The Nasdaq composite index was up 36.98 at 2,009.07, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 9.98 to 1,176.69.

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The slim gains on Wall Street followed a positive session in Japan, where stocks finished up 2.6 percent. Economic instability in Japan, where the government admitted that the country is in a state of deflation, sent shares tumbling in the United States in Europe on Wednesday.

But analysts were doubtful the market will move substantially higher anytime soon. They say investors still are grappling with their biggest fear, which is that earnings and the economy are going to be weak for the forseeable future.

Fears about the economy increased Wednesday when investors worried that Japan's economic problems will cut into demand in that country for U.S. goods and services and in turn lead to a further drop in American stock prices.

Analysts on Wednesday were hoping Japan's situtation would be the final bit of bad news that would propel to market to a bottom and allow for a rebound.

``The real question that is smacking us in the eyeballs is, has the stock market reached a level that can be stabilized and investors can be encouraged?'' said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer for First Albany Corp.

But Thursday's lackluster session didn't bode well for a rally of any kind. Unfortunately, Johnson said, ``this is not an inspiring stock market today.''

Johnson said investors' lack of inspiration was clear in the minimal gains in the major indexes and in more movement into safer sectors such as energy stocks. Enron rose $3.35 at $66.10, and Dynegy gained $1.55 at $47.10.

Financial stocks were higher after falling hard on Wednesday as investors worried how Japan's economic crisis would affect them. Citigroup was up $1.67 at $46.57 and J.P. Morgan Chase rising $2.13 to $45.88. Both are Dow stocks.

The tech sector also posted small gains, despite word from some companies that business is especially tough in Asia. Among those was Cisco Systems, up 81 cents at $21.06, and Intel, up 69 cents at $29.75.

Advancing issues narrowly outnumbered decliners 15 to 13 on the New York Stock Exchange where volume was 548.34 million, compared with 605.07 million at the same point Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of smaller company stocks, was up 1.31 at 455.00.