Sat, Mar 31, 2001 EST
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Stocks Creep Higher as Wall Street Waits for Tuesday
By Seth Sutel   Associated Press
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NEW YORK — Stocks moved higher Monday but investors remained wary after last week's bloody debacle triggered by profit warnings from tech companies. They also were anxiously awaiting an interest rate decision by the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones industrial average, after drifting lower in midday trading, was up 82.08 at 9,905.49 in mid-afternoon trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 9.20 at 1,159.73, and the Nasdaq was up 12.36 at 1,903.27.

Investors refrained from making many commitments following a week in which the Dow suffered its worst-ever weekly point decline and the Nasdaq composite fell through the 2,000 level.

They also were waiting to see what the Fed's policy-making Open Market Committee would do during a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. While it was widely expected that the Fed would lower interest rates for a third time this year, investors debated how big the cut would be.

The most optimistic observers said the Fed might make an unusually aggressive 0.75 percentage point cut. But many others expected the Fed to match the 0.50 point cuts it made during January.

Concerns about tech earnings carried through to Monday's trading, when an analyst's cautious comments about personal computer sales for the rest of the year sent Intel's shares tumbling $1.88 to $26. Microsoft, another element of the Dow 30, fell 63 cents to $53.94.

The declines in those stocks highlighted investors' sensitivity to profit concerns in the tech sector, which was cited as a major factor behind last week's harrowing selloff. The Dow's 821.21-point tumble was its worst weekly point loss ever and its worst weekly percentage decline since October 1989.

Those declines came largely on concerns about earnings at major tech companies, several of which issued warnings last week, including Compaq Computer, Oracle and Computer Sciences.

But some major tech companies were bouncing back from their losses week. Oracle, which has predicted poor demand for at least three quarters, was up 88 cents at $14.94 and Hewlett-Packard was up $1.46 at $29.48.

Advancing issues edged out decliners by a 4 to 3 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 682.24 million shares, well off Friday's pace, when volume was inflated by the expirations of futures and options contracts.

The Russell 2000 index was off 0.31 at 441.49.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 2 percent during the day on growing hopes that Japanese officials may be able to prevent the country's financial problems from deepening, but the indicator couldn't sustain the gains and ended the down 0.34 percent.

Germany's DAX index fell 1.02 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 was off 0.20 percent, and France's CAC-40 was down 1.10 percent.

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