Stocks fall for first time in 2 weeks Dow index loses 11 points on late series of computer-guided sales

December 31, 1996|By BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks declined yesterday for the first time in two weeks, driven down by two series of computer-guided "sell" orders in the final half-hour of trading.

International Business Machines Corp., Walt Disney Co. and American Express Co. led the loss in the Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 11.54 to 6,549.37, trimming its gain for the year to 28 percent and snapping an eight-day advance.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.94 to 753.85. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 3.63 to 1,287.75.

The Russell 2,000 index of small capitalization stocks gained 0.82 to 359.99; the Wilshire 5,000 index, comprising stocks on the New York, American and Nasdaq exchanges, fell 14.65 to 7,274.2; the American Stock Exchange market value index climbed 1.53 to 583.46; and the S&P mid-cap index gained .61 to 255.36.

Maryland stocks rose. Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc. advanced $2.75 to $22. Citizens Bancorp added $2 to $62.50.

The broad market's swing was mirrored in software publishers that are trying to create big-selling products that will program computers to read the correct year after Dec. 31, 1999. First they soared, then they plunged.

Zitel Corp. collapsed $20.25 to $41 and was the most active stock in the U.S. as nearly 11.2 million shares traded. The stock had climbed to $72.875 on speculation that billionaire investor George Soros was buying shares. When a person close to Soros said yesterday that he isn't buying, the stock plunged.

TSR Inc. closed down $7.50 to $30 after rising to $50.25; Acceler8 Technology Corp. skidded $5.125 to $16.375; BRC Holdings Inc. slumped $5 to $45.75; and Data Dimensions Inc. fell $4.125 to $33.625.

Some of the late selling was blamed on last-minute tax strategies on the next-to-last trading day of the year.

"Obviously, you have some tax considerations, and people taking advantage of it, people looking at short-term gains after a tremendous year for the market," said Jeff Rubin, an analyst at Birinyi Associates Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.

The S&P 500 index is ahead 22.4 percent this year after surging 34.1 percent in 1995, the biggest back-to-back gain since the mid-1950s.

The rising U.S. dollar may have also hurt stocks by threatening to cut the overseas earnings of U.S. companies. The dollar rose to its highest point against the Japanese yen since March 1993 and also gained against the German mark.

Telephone stocks, which in the six days through Friday had soared almost 13 percent, led the loss in the S&P 500. BellSouth Corp. fell $2.25 yesterday to $41.75; SBC Communications Inc. retreated $1.625 to $53.50; and Ameritech Corp. dropped $1.625 to $61.25.

Of the 30 stocks in the Dow, IBM dropped $1.50 to $153.625; Disney fell $1.25 to $70; and American Express eased $1 to $57.375. Still, advancing stocks outnum- bered decliners by 14 to 11 on the New York Stock Exchange, where 339 million shares changed hands compared with this year's daily average of 409 million shares.

Among active stocks, Long Island Lighting Co. climbed $2.625 to 22 after Brooklyn Union Gas Co. announced plans to buy the suburban New York electric utility for almost $25 a share, or $3.0 billion in stock.

Brooklyn Union fell $1.125 to $30.

The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond yield slid 1 basis point to 6.54 percent.

Increased investments in stock mutual funds are paving the way for higher stock prices, traders and analysts said. Starting Thursday, investors will be able to make 1997 contributions to individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans.

Investors poured $2.5 billion into mutual funds in the six days ended Christmas Eve, reversing a three-week pullout.

In November, investors put $17.1 billion into stock funds, 26 percent more than in October, a mutual fund group said yesterday.

In the first 11 months of this year, a record $210 billion went to U.S. stock funds, surpassing 1993's peak of $130 billion.

Pub Date: 12/31/96

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