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New rate hike holds Wall Street back

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by Elaine Frei

After gains early in the day, the New York equities markets retreated on Tuesday after the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates once again, by 25 basis points to 4.75 percent. The statement that came along with the announcement of the hike, while hinting that the series of rate hikes might come to an end at some point in the foreseeable future, still led some analysts to believe that there are more hikes to come before that time comes.

At mid-afternoon, the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 were both flat on the day, at 2,316.01 and 1,301.67 respectively, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped by 0.2 percent to 11,226.26.

The pharmaceuticals sector was mixed. Eli Lilly dropped 3.9 percent to $56.36 on a pair of downgrades. Friedman Billings Ramsey cut the drugmaker from “market perform” to “underperform”, while Merrill Lynch reduced its rating from “buy” to “neutral”. Both cited the lack of market share of Lilly’s antidepressent Cymbalta as one reason for the ratings reductions.

Elsewhere in the sector, Immunicon added 9.1 percent to $3.94 after it said it was extending a research and development agreement with Pfizer. Pfizer, meanwhile, was down 1 percent to $25.56 after it was revealed that the company is being sued for fraud over the marketing of its drug Lipitor.

The oil sector saw advances in both companies that produce oil and in those that provide oilfield services. ConocoPhillips gained 2.9 percent to $64.93, while ExxonMobil added 0.7 percent to $61.69. These advances took the Amex oil index up 1.2 percent on the day. Meanwhile, oil service company Halliburton advanced by 3.1 percent to $73.81 and Schlumberger rose 1.8 percent to $125.18.

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News posted: March 28, 2006

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