Stocks droop; Dow loses 14 points; Nasdaq off 15 points as tech rally fades; Russell 2,000 edges higher


NEW YORK -- Stock prices drifted lower in sluggish trading yesterday, as investors adjusted their holdings before the end of the quarter and kept an eye on NATO airstrikes in Kosovo.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended the session down 14.15 at 9,822.24, after erasing most of an early 89-point loss. The Dow finished the week down 81.31 points.

Broader stock indicators declined after a brief rally in technology shares lost steam. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 7.19, to 1,282.80. The Nasdaq composite declined 15.63, to 2,419.17.

The Russell 2,000 index, a benchmark of small-cap stocks, rose 0.93, to 393.92; the Wilshire 5,000 index slid 43.17, to 11,658.83; the American Stock Exchange composite index gained 6.34, to 718.74; and the S&P; 400 midcap index slipped 0.37, to 363.06.

The Sun-Bloomberg Maryland index of the top 100 Maryland stocks gained 1.30, to 180.65.

U.S. stocks fell as Merck & Co. and Warner-Lambert Co. suffered setbacks on profitable drugs.

Oracle Corp. and other software companies limited the decline, gaining on speculation that investors overreacted to concern about slowing sales in the personal computer industry.

Five stocks fell for every four that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where about 707.3 million shares traded.

Among technology stocks, International Business Machines rose $1.0625, to $172.375; Compaq Computer Corp. lost 25 cents, to $31.25, and Dell Computer Corp. slid 25 cents, to $37.875.

Big losers among the Dow components were Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., down $2.375, to $49.50, and Merck & Co. Inc., which fell $2.1875, to $80.375.

But AlliedSignal Co. rose $2.375, to $50.375. The company's truck brake systems subsidiary formed an alliance with Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. to make a new generation of anti-lock braking systems. Delphi stock eased 6.25 cents, to $18.

Warner-Lambert Co. fell $1.65625, to $67.6875, after a government scientist voiced concern to a government advisory panel about the risks of Rezulin, the diabetes drug that helped make it one of the world's most profitable drug companies.

Warner-Lambert had 1998 sales of Rezulin of $748 million, accounting for 7 percent of its $10.2 billion in total sales.

Oracle Corp. climbed 81.25 cents, to $27.50, after falling 36 percent from Feb. 3 through Wednesday.

BMC Software Inc. rose $2.50, to $37.6875. Demand for mainframe computers is still strong and concern about slowing revenue as Y2K approaches is excessive, said Warburg Dillon Read Inc. analyst Gibbs Moody, who reiterated his "strong buy" rating on the maker of corporate software. He expects the stock to reach $55 in 12 months.

Goodyear fell $2.0625, to $49.8125, on mistaken investor concern over a company press statement, said analyst Nick Colas at Credit Suisse First Boston Inc., who rates the tiremaker a "buy."

He said investors have always been concerned about capacity expansion, and yesterday's release made it sound as if the company was expanding production capacity when it was shifting production to Quebec from Alabama.

Ensco International Inc. gained $2.125, to $14; Marine Drilling Cos. rose $1.3125, to $10.3125; and Transocean Offshore Inc. added $2, to $28.875. R&B; Falcon Corp. climbed $1.125, to $8.125, and Rowan Cos. added 18.75 cents, to $13.0625.

Qualcomm Inc. rose $13.125, or 13 percent, to $111.5625, on optimism that payments the cellular-phone maker gets from manufacturers that use its technology will surge, after the company settled a 2 1/2-year dispute with rival Ericsson AB.

Excite Inc. rose $6.9375, to $140.25, after the No. 2 Internet directory and search navigation service said it's offering consumers a three-dimensional Web search using the new Intel Pentium III processor.

Pub Date: 3/27/99

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