Stock Option Woes Weigh on Market

Stocks slumped Friday on inflation fears and the latest chapter in Wall Street’s ongoing stock option scandal.

Juniper Networks , Apple and Nvidia all lost ground after delaying their quarterly SEC filings while they complete stock option grant-related earnings restatements.

Along with stronger than expected retail sales, the latest stock option grant backdating revelations were enough to keep stocks on the defensive Friday, although they finished off their worst levels.

Among other movers, Analog Devices tumbled on its results, and Andrew fell after deciding it doesn’t want to merge with anyone for now.

Investors will get plenty of data next week on both the health of the tech sector and the economy in general. Applied Materials will report its results Tuesday, HP on Wednesday, and Dell on Thursday. Wholesale and retail inflation reports and retail earnings will also occupy investors.

HP is expected to report another stellar quarter, with earnings up 11 cents a share from the year-ago quarter to 47 cents a share, and sales up 5% to $21.8 billion.

Little is expected from Dell after a big warning three weeks ago, but the company may be able to stabilize earnings in the short-term with price increases. Longer-term, the company could continue to face challenges from component price pressures and PC market weakness.

The Nasdaq lost 14 to 2057, the S&P 500 lost 5 to 1266, and the Dow fell 36 to 11,088. Volume declined to 1.96 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.47 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 21-11 on the NYSE, and 19-9 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 72% on the NYSE, and 73% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 53-92 on the NYSE, and 41-171 on the Nasdaq.

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