Stocks fall as top performers falter


NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell yesterday amid losses in some of the top-performing industry groups of the past few months, such as media, semiconductor and brokerage issues.

"Some of the cable-related, technology and brokerage stocks turned around [yesterday] and that led the index lower," said Robert Antolini, a senior trader at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Inc.

The Nasdaq Combined Composite Index declined 14.20, or 1.8 percent, to 768.71. A slide in media and computer-related issues accounted for much of the decline. These were the same stocks that helped propel the Nasdaq index to Friday's record 787.42 close.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.99 to 3,635.32, with Philip Morris Cos. shaving about 2.5 points off the average. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 2.23 to 466.22. On the New York Stock Exchange, 11 common stocks fell for every seven that advanced. The American Stock Exchange Market Value index declined 5.00 to 476.10.

Tele-Communications Inc., which is expected to merge with Bell Atlantic Corp., fell 62.5 cents, to $30.375. Comcast Corp.'s Class A shares declined $1, to $36.375, and QVC Net work Inc. lost $2, to $55.50.

Microsoft Corp. fell $2.75, to $80.25. The world's largest software maker said it would make some staff cuts as part of a redeployment of workers in its Windows software operations.

Some computer-related stocks also slumped. Intel Corp. fell 75 cents, to $62.25, Apple Computer Inc. declined 62.5 cents, to $27.75, and Oracle Systems Corp. slid $2.75, to $61.50.

The S&P; semiconductor index, which includes Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Corp., Motorola Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., and National Semiconductor Corp., fell 6.17, to 187.22. The index has rallied as much as 30.5 percent in the past three months, to a high of 212.01 on Sept. 28 from 162.43 on July 19.

Among brokerage stocks, Morgan Stanley Group Inc. fell $3.625, to $81, Merrill Lynch & Co. declined $2.375, to $93.50, and Bear Stearns Cos. lost $1.50, to $22.25.

Brokerage stocks, as measured by the S&P; miscellaneous financial index, have gained as much as 10.9 percent in the past three months, to a high of 60.23 on Thursday. The index's nine components include Merrill Lynch; Dean Witter Discover & Co.; Primerica Corp., parent of Smith Barney Shearson Inc.; and American Express Co., parent of Lehman Brothers.

Although many companies still haven't released third-quarter results, U.S. companies have reported earnings so far that were 3 percent above forecasts, according to Institutional Brokers Estimate System Inc., a unit of Citicorp, which tracks earning reports.

Still, investors focused yesterday more on the release of lower-than-expected earnings from companies such as Philip Morris than positive reports from Unisys Corp., Monsanto Co., Citicorp and Wells Fargo & Co.

"I think you'll see steady growth in earnings over the next several years, and that will drive stocks higher," said Peter Antos, vice president in charge of stock investments at Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co., which manages $1 billion.

Philip Morris fell $1.125 to $52.75, after the company said third-quarter earnings fell 25 percent to $1.11 a share from $1.44 in the prior year. It said fourth-quarter earnings would be below last year's results because of lower cigarette prices and other problems.

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