Renewed anxiety about the possibility of more terror attacks pressured Wall Street today, with investors shrugging off some better-than-expected results from Boeing and McDonald's.
Stocks were narrowly mixed in light trading that analysts said reflected the market's worries that the latest spate of anthrax exposures will keep shoppers home and discourage consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the economy.
At noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 49.34 at 9,183.63. Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was off 6.33 at 1,070.76, while the Nasdaq composite index gained 4.36 to 1,650.70.
Boeing fell 68 cents to $33.02 on third-quarter earnings a penny ahead of expectations that came with a warning that operations are likely to be weak in coming quarters. McDonald's fell 36 cents to $29.04 after third-quarter earnings fell 1 cent short of what analysts had predicted.
Two bellwethers scheduled to report earnings later today fared better, rebounding somewhat from losses in the previous session. Microsoft gained $1.04 to $57.07, and Sun Microsystems rose 4 cents to $8.84.
Texas Instruments fell $1.76 to $28.15. The company, whose semiconductors power two-third of the world's mobile phones, lost money in the third quarter and said it expects to post a fourth-quarter loss wider than the average estimate from analysts surveyed by First Call.
Merck fell $1.77 to $67.28. Sales of its Vioxx painkiller, once seen as its best hedge against generic competition for some Merck products, were lower than expected. The drugmaker earned 84 cents a share in the third quarter, about 8 percent more than analysts had forecast.
Siebel, the largest maker of software to track sales and customer accounts, fell 3 cents to $17.35. It said third-quarter profit missed the average estimate of analysts surveyed by First Call as demand for corporate software slowed.
Symantec surged $5.08 to $52.85. The maker of Norton computer-security software, said increased concern about Internet security helped fiscal second-quarter revenue top analyst estimates.
Oil shares declined as the price of crude oil dropped 2.4 percent to $21.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Exxon Mobil fell 55 cents to $40.89, ChevronTexaco lost $2.30 to $86.80 and Royal Dutch Petroleum gave up $1.24 to $51.81.
The market remained uncertain a day after news of new anthrax exposures forced a temporary shuttering of Congress and after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned of a dip in productivity because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
That news had prompted selling Wednesday, but also attributed some of decline to an expected pullback from the market's rebound from the massive sell-off that followed the attacks. By last week, all three major indexes had returned to levels last seen before the assault.
Although stocks have retreated somewhat since then, the Dow is still 11 percent above the new lows for 2001 set last month. The Nasdaq is up 16 percent and the S&P 500 higher by about 11 percent.
Some traders said disappointing earnings reports weighed on the market more than bioterrorism concerns.
Anthrax "isn't going to affect the ability of American corporations to earn profits in the future," said Doug Myers, a trader at Wachovia Securities in Atlanta. "Anthrax is a health scare but it doesn't affect my investment decisions."
Also today, more economic data showing fallout from the Sept. 11 terror attacks. For the work week ending Oct. 13, new jobless claims increased by a seasonally adjusted 6,000 to 490,000, the Labor Department said.