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March 15, 2006

Wall Street mixed at midday

Permalink: Wall Street mixed at midday
by Elaine Frei

There was little movement in New York equities markets by midday on Wednesday on continuing concerns that interest rates will continue to rise. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.1 percent higher to 11,156.78, while the Nasdaq Composite was slightly lower at 2,295.83 and the S&P 500 had dropped 0.1 percent to 1,296.31.

Banks were struggling as quarterly reports continued to come in or be due soon. Lehman Brothers said their first quarter earnings were up 24 percent but still lost 0.7 percent early and struggled to stay even by midday at $145.28. Bear Stearns, due to report Thursday, was down 0.5 percent to $133.88 and Goldman Sachs dropped 1.1 percent to $147.71 on profit-taking.

Sears Holdings, which owns not only Sears but K-Mart, gained 10.1 percent to $130.04 on its earnings reports, which came in much higher than had been expected. Elsewhere in the retail sector, drugstore chain CVS dropped 2.7 percent to $29.74 on the report that the Securities and Exchange Commission has begun an informal inquiry into the company’s accounting practices.

An investigation into alleged wrongdoing also hurt tax preparer H&R Block, which lost 4.3 percent to $21.05. New York State Attorney Eliot Spitzer announced that his office is looking into charges that the company has urged clients to invest their tax refunds in retirement accounts that do not generate enough interest to cover account fees.

Railroads did well on the day after increased price estimates from Merrill Lynch when Union Pacific upped its estimate of first-quarter profits by 20 percent. Union Pacific was up 5.3 percent to $89.76. Among other railroads, Burlington Northern Santa Fe advanced 4.9 percent to $80.24 and Norfolk Southern gained 3.3 percent to $53.21.



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