Stocks encountered some profit-taking a day after the Dow industrials broke through 8,000, but the damage was minimal with many investors looking for ways to enter, rather than exit, the market.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 18.11 to 8,020.77 despite a big gain by Merck, which surged after a strong profit report. The Dow dipped under the 8,000-mark twice during the last hour of trading, but bounced back both times as bargain hunters went to work.
Broad-market indicators also pulled back slightly, snapping a 10-session streak of record highs for the technology-rich Nasdaq composite index.
“We were set up to get smacked today,” said Alfred E. Goldman, a market analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons of St. Louis, noting the fretful tone of many media reports on Wednesday’s exploits in the stock market.
“Classically, you buy them at the wake and you sell them at the wedding. But the bears couldn’t get anything going because the sideline money wants in,” said Goldman.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 9-to-8 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was very heavy again, totaling 629.06 million shares as of 4 p.m., the sixth-largest tally ever after Wednesday’s 646.03 million.
Some of the stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily Thursday:
AT&T;, down 1-5/16 at 35.
Company President John Walter resigned Wednesday after AT&T; backed out of its promise to make him successor to Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Allen.
Woolworth, up 2-1/2 at 27-9/16.
The retailer is changing its name and closing its struggling chain of five-and-dime stores.
Merck, up 8-1/4 at 106-3/4.
Higher sales of anti-cholesterol, ulcer and other established drugs helped boost Merck’s second-quarter earnings by 18 percent, beating analyst forecasts.
McDonald’s, up 5/16 at 50-1/4.
The fast-food chain reported a 4 percent improvement in second-quarter profits, meeting analyst estimates.
Coca-Cola, down 1 at 69-7/8.
The Atlanta-based soft drink giant’s second-quarter earnings rose 26 percent, exceeding Wall Street estimates by a slim margin.
Octel Communications, up 3-3/8 at 30-1/8 Lucent Technologies (NYSE), down 2-5/8 at 86-1/16.
AT&T; spin-off Lucent agreed to acquire Octel, the world’s largest provider of voice-messaging systems, for $1.8 billion, or $31 a share.
Microsoft, up 1 to 149-7/16.
The software giant was scheduled to report on its results for the April-June quarter after the close of trading.
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