Stocks ended mixed today, bouncing back from a broad sell-off on profit warnings from several companies as most Wall Street professionals kept an eye on an approaching Hurricane Floyd.
The Dow Jones industrial average, at one point down 174 points, recovered somewhat to close with a loss of 63.96 at 10,737.46.
Broader indicators ended mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 0.51, to 1318.48, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 7.45, to 2806.72.
Volume was relatively light as Hurricane Floyd headed up the Atlantic coast, producing heavy rains that kept many New York traders out of work.
The threat of worse weather on Friday kept many others on the trading floor to clear their portfolios. Friday also marks a "triple witching" session, a once-a-quarter event when contracts on stock options, index options and index futures all expire, and many traders chose to settle their accounts today.
The bond market closed early, at 1 p.m. EDT, but stock markets kept normal hours. Several brokerages allowed employees to leave early.
Weather aside, stocks tumbled as a diverse group of companies issued bad news about their profits. FDX Corp., the parent of Federal Express, fell 5-11/16, to 38, after reporting that it earned 52 cents per share in its fiscal first quarter. Analysts had expected the company to earn 54 cents per share.
Raytheon fell 7-5/16, to 53 5/8, after the defense contractor announced that its earnings would miss analysts' projections for the third quarter and for the year.
Quintiles Transnational Corp. plunged 14 3/4, to 20, after saying its third-quarter earnings will be about 9 cents below analysts' expectations. Quintiles is a marketing and research company that focuses on the health-care industry.
Investors also bid stocks lower on the fear that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for a third time this year when it meets Oct. 5 in its quest to contain inflation.
The Fed said today that production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose for the seventh straight month in August. That report added to evidence that the economy is still growing robustly, analysts said.
Hewlett Packard was the biggest drain on the Dow today, falling 4-9/16, to 103-15/16. AT&T rose 1, to 45 1/2, after the company announced a mobile-telephone alliance with British Telecom.
American Home Products rose 3 1/2, to 46 3/4, amid reports that the company is nearing a settlement of lawsuits over a diet drug linked to health problems.