Stocks Stay on the Defensive

Stocks lost ground for a second day Friday on fears of an economic slowdown.

An unexpectedly weak report on manufacturing in the Philadelphia region on Thursday, coupled with continuing weak reports from the housing sector, has shaken investors’ belief that the Federal Reserve has been able to engineer a soft landing.

But one reason for investor nervousness — the ongoing leak investigation scandal at HP — seemed to get a little better late Friday.

After the close, HP shares edged higher after a press conference that seemed intended to distance CEO Mark Hurd from the company’s leak investigation scandal, with Hurd saying he didn’t know some details of the leak investigation tactics and admitting he failed to read an internal report on the investigation. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn resigned effective immediately — giving Hurd more responsibility despite his own missteps and growing role in the scandal. But the company still faces congressional and SEC investigations, among other probes.

CommVault had a good day, gaining 17% in its debut. DivX also had a strong showing in its IPO Friday.

Cognos rose 10% after beating estimates and raising guidance. Palm gained 4% after topping reduced estimates.

Texas Instruments added 1.7% on a stock buyback and dividend hike.

Phoenix , 3Com and Advanced Analogic fell on their results.

A number of chip companies fell on an analog sector downgrade from Caris & Co., with Microsemi among the hardest hit before it warned after the close.

The Nasdaq fell 18 to 2219, the S&P 500 lost 3 to 1314, and the Dow fell 25 to 11,508. Volume declined to 2.16 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.69 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 20-12 on the NYSE, and 20-9 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 63% on the NYSE, and 74% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 94-58 on the NYSE, and 62-80 on the Nasdaq.

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