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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Stocks climb modestly amid investor hesitance

By Hope Yen
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Wall Street pushed higher yesterday as investors looked past a weaker-than-expected report on jobless claims and tepid November retail figures. The Dow Jones industrials closed at their highest level in 18 months.

Trading was uneven as investors were tentative a day after the Nasdaq composite index brushed the 2,000 level for the first time in nearly two years and the Dow approached the 10,000 mark. Indeed, although the three main gauges finished higher yesterday, advancing issues finished virtually even with decliners on the New York Stock Exchange.

"We did make some psychologically significant highs yesterday. So now is the time to re-evaluate as the end of the year comes," said Neil Massa, equity trader at John Hancock Funds.

"Investors might want to take some money off the table. But it's certainly not a change in sentiment. I still think the trend is positive," Massa said.

The Dow closed up 57.40, or 0.6 percent, at 9,930.82. It was the highest finish since May 28, 2002, when the blue-chip average stood at 9,981.58. On Wednesday, the Dow reached 9,942.01 before retreating somewhat and closing nearly 20 points higher. The last time the Dow closed above 10,000 was May 24, 2002.

The broader market also finished modestly higher.

Analysts said the choppy trading is a sign that investors were looking beyond yesterday's retail and claims figures to today's expected release of November employment figures and next week's meeting of the Federal Reserve.

The government reported yesterday that more workers filed new claims for jobless benefits last week, but at a level that continues to suggest the pace of layoffs has eased. Also yesterday, a number of major retailers reported sales figures for November, mixed results that clouded previously upbeat forecasts for the holiday shopping season.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. fell $2.27 to $52.59 after the company reported that sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, declined 3.6 percent.