Concerns over the economic impact of the Asian tsunami disasters pushed stocks lower yesterday, putting Wall Street's recent rally on hold despite decent holiday-sales figures...
NEW YORK — Concerns over the economic impact of the Asian tsunami disasters pushed stocks lower yesterday, putting Wall Street’s recent rally on hold despite decent holiday-sales figures and falling oil prices.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 50.99 to 10,776.13.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 16 cents to close at $26.85 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, slid 38 cents to $53.15.
Broader stock indicators saw modest losses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 5.21 at 1,204.92, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 6.40 to 2,154.22.
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Insurers, hotels and travel-related stocks fell as investors reacted to the devastation in Asia, which could be one of the costliest disasters in history, though the economic impact for the United States appeared to be minimal. And with trading volume very light during the holiday week, analysts said there was little to be divined from Wall Street’s initial reaction.
“Honestly, you’ve got this news out there, but trading volumes are so light, what with the holidays, you can’t really put any meaning behind what’s going on today,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. “Low volume means everything’s magnified. Next week, we’ll get a much better idea of where things are going.”
Oil prices continued to drop sharply despite wintry weather in the Northeast. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $41.32, down $2.86, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That took the edge off troublesome currency news, as the dollar fell to another new low against the euro yesterday.
Analysts were generally pleased with the uptick in sales most retailers reported late last week and in post-holiday shopping. Wal-Mart sales rose modestly, while Amazon.com reported record sales during the holiday season. Amazon shares soared $3.32 to $42.25.
Last-minute shoppers may have helped the retail sector exceed its diminished expectations for the year. According to SpendingPulse, a division of MasterCard International, retail sales rose 8.1 percent this holiday season, compared to a year ago. The National Retail Federation was expecting 4.5 percent growth; its figures have yet to be released.
“When you take a look at online sales and the phenomena of gift cards, and you put it all together, it appears it was a solid retail-sales spending spree for the Christmas season,” said Joseph Keating, chief investment officer at AmSouth Asset Management. “And when you look at the underpinnings of the economy, they’re still solid, too.”
Insurance and travel stocks were mixed as news from Asia continued to come in and Wall Street tried to figure the economic impact of the tragedy there.