Cisco Comments, Earnings Warnings Spark Sell-off

Stocks sold off sharply on Thursday after Cisco said that strength seen in recent months has begun to weaken.

Rumors of U.S. ground troops on a scouting mission in Iraq – denied by the military – also weighed on the market, as did other reports of Mideast tensions.

The ISDEX fell 5 to 143, and the Nasdaq plunged 59 to 1716. The S&P 500 dropped 17 to 1080, and the Dow lost 106 to 9834. Volume declined to 1.35 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.83 billion on the Nasdaq, but surged to the downside in the final hour of trading. Decliners led 18 to 12 on the NYSE, and 23 to 11 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, Xilinx rose after raising guidance. BEA slipped despite beating estimates, and Serena guided lower.

During the day, Cisco fell 10% after CEO John Chambers reportedly said three times during a bus tour with analysts that visibility is tough and the strength seen in recent months has softened. So much for Reg FD.

Ciena plunged 12% on an earnings warning. Synopsis fell 8% on a warning.

IBM fell 3% after saying that 2002 will be a tough year for the tech sector.

Intel fell 6% and Micron lost 9% on negative analyst comments.

Qualcomm broke 34.50 support and closed at 32.50.

Some technical comments on the market: Note: To see the charts in the text email newsletter, click on the story link at the top of the newsletter.

A genuinely ugly reversal today. The S&P 100 (first chart) continues to sit right above critical 545 support; if that goes, a retest of the September lows would essentially be under way, because that chart would predict minimum downside to 490. The Nasdaq (second chart) looks more and more like it may be headed for the critical 1620-1630 area. 1680-1690 is first strong support and then 1650. Resistance is 1730, 1745, and 1772. The S&P 500 (third chart) is once again poised over 1075-1080 support. 1065 and 1052 are below that, and 1085 and 1098 are resistance. The Dow (fourth chart) has a critical support level at 9800 for tomorrow; if that goes, 9650 looks to be next. 9900 and 10,000 are resistance.

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