New York market: Investors to wait and see

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The Independent Online
US stock investors are reluctant to wage big bucks on shares until the fate of the buck itself becomes clearer. The dollar's up-and-down week versus the Japanese yen introduced a new element of uncertainty and risk to the stock market. Its direction in the months ahead will determine in part the pace of corporate profit growth and the desire of global investors to own US stocks.

"Investors have to wait and see how Asia's problems play out'' before endorsing US.stocks again, said George Jacobsen, chief investment officer at Trevor Stewart Burton & Jacobsen.

The Dow Jones index fell 1.4 per cent to 8,712.87 last week in see-saw trading. "Earnings for US companies are an overwhelming concern," said William O'Connor, manager of Marshall Large-Cap Growth and Income Fund. "In terms of Asia, you're talking about a third of the world economy. As an investor, you'd better hope Europe and the US are strong enough to carry the load."

Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin says he sees no quick fix for Asia's ailing economies.

Investors will get a solid dose of earnings reports this week that provide an indication of whether profit growth is slowing. The stock market is entering the so-called confessional period of quarter; that is, companies which expect to fall short of analysts' estimates tend to warn investors in the last two weeks of the quarter.

Last week also saw a wild ride in the bond market, which on Monday took 30-year yields to record lows. It was the most volatile week since February, and follows a four-month period that was the dullest in the Treasury market in more than 20 years. "The big money has come out to play again," said William Westgate, a bond salesman for ABN-Amro.

Bonds soared on Monday, pushing the yield down to 5.57 per cent - a record low. Then in the worst losses for nine months, yields rose to 5.75 per cent on Wednesday as the US sold dollars to prop up the yen. Bond yields ended the week at 5.67 per cent, up just one basis point from last Friday.

"What a week," said Livingston Douglas, chief investment officer at Kiewit Investment Management. "We had a long period of boredom and now we have plenty of excitement." He expects yields to trade between 5.5 per cent and 6 per cent for the next several months.

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