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2/24/2004
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TECH STOCKS: The Losses Continue

A sharp drop in consumer confidence led to a fifth consecutive losing day on Wall Street.

A sharp drop in consumer confidence as measured by the Conference Board gave investors another excuse to sell Tuesday. Stocks wound up the day moderately lower.

The bigger-than-expected drop in the Conference Board's consumer confidence index triggered the sell-off. The index fell to 87.3 in February from 96.4 a month earlier; Wall Street analysts had expected a reading of 92 or 93.

Tuesday's selling continued more than a week of losses that could be the market correction some analysts and investors have been expecting. "We haven't had a meaningful correction since last March," Matt Kelmon, portfolio manager of the Kelmoore Strategy Funds, told The Associated Press. "In the near term it's painful, but it's very, very healthy."

The InformationWeek 100 fell 0.79 point, or 0.2%, to 322.79. The other key indexes were also slightly lower: The Dow industrials fell 43.25 points, or 0.4%, to 10,566.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.90 points, or 0.2%, to 1,139.09. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 2.08 points, or 0.1%, to 2,005.44 and has erased nearly all of its gains this year during the past week. The Nasdaq-100 tracking stock fell 9 cents to $36.36 as more than 124.5 million shares changed hands.

Several telecom stocks fell as Morgan Stanley downgraded them before the session began. Among the downgraded issues, Sprint fell 49 cents to $17.98; Nextel Communications fell 49 cents to $27.05; and AT&T rose 23 cents to $19.95. Morgan Stanley upgraded AT&T Wireless Services, which rose 7 cents to $13.65, and Verizon Communications, which rose $1.08 to $38.09.

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