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Originally published Friday, May 13, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Stocks plunge after Wal-Mart warning

Stocks tumbled sharply yesterday as a second-quarter profit warning from Wal-Mart Stores overshadowed strong economic news and a sharp drop...

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stocks tumbled sharply yesterday as a second-quarter profit warning from Wal-Mart Stores overshadowed strong economic news and a sharp drop in oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average suffered a triple-digit loss for the second time this week.

The Dow fell 110.77, or 1.08 percent, to 10,189.48. The index lost 103.23 points Tuesday and is down 1.51 percent for the week.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, gained 9 cents to close at $25 a share. Boeing, another Dow stock, also gained 9 cents to close at $60.49.

Broader stock indicators also lost considerable ground. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 11.75, or 1 percent, at 1,159.36, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 7.67, or 0.39 percent, to 1,963.88.

Investors' fears of an economic slowdown were heightened after Wal-Mart missed Wall Street's profit expectations for the quarter and said high gasoline prices have hurt customer spending and will affect the company's second-quarter results.

That put a damper on a positive Commerce Department report, which showed a 1.4 percent increase in retail sales, the best gain in six months. Analysts had expected a rise of 0.8 percent.

Combined with oil falling below $49 a barrel, the balance of news could be swinging in the market's favor, but investors' pessimism instead sent stocks falling.

"Wal-Mart is overshadowing it, but the fact remains the economic news is good," said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist and senior vice president at S.W. Bach.

The price of oil price dropped sharply for a second straight session. But it remains high enough going into the summer driving season to exacerbate worries of an economic slowdown as consumers spend more on gasoline and less on everything else. A barrel of light crude settled at $48.54, down $1.91, on the New York Mercantile Exchange, near an 11-week low.

Falling crude futures took shares of oil companies lower as well. Exxon Mobil lost $2.47 to $54.82, while Chevron fell $1.35 to $52.05.

The bond market edged higher as stocks fell, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.17 percent from 4.18 percent late Wednesday. The dollar rose to a 2005 high against the euro and made gains against other major currencies. Gold prices fell.

Investors continued to focus on the Federal Reserve and interest rates, despite the good economic news. Many on Wall Street are concerned that higher rates could choke off economic growth but also that inflation may take hold if rates are too low.


"It's clear that the economy is growing, and it's growing in a way you'd hope it would be in this point in the cycle," said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers in Boston. "The economy is throwing a party and the stock market's not attending."

While profits at Wal-Mart rose 14 percent from the first quarter last year, the company's warning on its second-quarter earnings unnerved investors who have grown accustomed to strong gains at the nation's largest retailer. Wal-Mart skidded 95 cents to $47.65 after missing analysts' expectations by a penny a share and saying that its 2005 profit forecasts could be difficult to achieve.

Target climbed 60 cents to $48.80 after the retailer posted robust sales for the quarter and saw earnings rise 15 percent. The company beat Wall Street's profit forecasts by 2 cents a share.

Embattled Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley dropped 45 cents to $49.40 after a group of dissident shareholders publicized its plan to spin off the company's investment banking business from the rest of the firm, essentially reversing its 1997 merger with Dean Witter. The dissidents claim their plan was developed with the help of institutional shareholders.

3M has agreed to purchase filtration-products maker Cuno for $1.35 billion in cash and assumed debt, a deal that would expand 3M's reach in the liquid- and gas-filtration market. 3M lost $1.21 to $75.78, while Cuno surged 29.2 percent, or $16.03, to $70.85.

Ameritrade Holding added 4 cents to $13.80 after the company said it is not for sale.

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