Markets Mixed on Election Worries

Mon Nov 1, 2004
By Megan Davies

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. blue-chip stocks edged higher on Monday, while the broad market was almost unchanged as investor uncertainty about the outcome of the presidential election offset relief that crude oil fell below $50 a barrel.

Crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile exchange tumbled sank more than $2 a barrel to $49.55 as traders took profits ahead of Tuesday's election.

Record oil prices have hampered stocks for weeks as investors fret over the effect of high energy prices on profits. As crude fell on Monday, economically sensitive stocks like United Technologies Corp. (UTX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) helped support the Dow.

The tumble in crude pushed stocks briefly ahead, but the rally quickly petered out.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 15 points, or 0.15 percent, at 10,042. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 1 point, or 0.10 percent, at 1,129. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1 point, or 0.07 percent, at 1,976.

"This is lack of interest at the moment -- as the day has worn on, there's been almost a withdrawal to the sidelines by buyers and sellers, and I think it will be that way through today and tomorrow," said John O'Donoghue, CSFB managing director of listed trading,

"If the election weren't taking place, the market would have probably been a lot higher right now."

Before Tuesday's election, Wall Street's immediate concern seemed to be on having a quick, clear decision.

In 2000, the tight race forced a vote recount in Florida, delaying a decision on who had won. The stock market sold off amid the uncertainty.

Nasdaq drew support from PeopleSoft Inc. (PSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) as its shares shot up nearly 11 percent to $22.96 after rival Oracle Corp. (ORCL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) , raised its offer for the software company by $3 per share to $24 in a hostile takeover attempt. Oracle, also a Nasdaq component, rose 7 cents to $12.73.

But Merck & Co. (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) weighed on the Dow and the S&P 500, falling nearly 10 percent to $28.27 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the drug maker tried to bury concerns over its drug Vioxx for years. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market after safety concerns were raised.

Caterpillar was up more than 1 percent at $81.44 on the NYSE, while United Technologies rose 1.6 percent to $94.30.

But shares of oil-related companies slipped as the price of crude dropped. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 1 percent to $48.67, while ConocoPhillips (COP.N: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 0.7 percent to $83.74.





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