TECH STOCKS: Microsoft's Cautious Outlook Chills Market

Oct 24, 2003 (01:10 PM EDT)

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Stocks fell Friday after Microsoft's cautious outlook added to investors' concerns that the markets' advance this year has gone too far.

The Nasdaq, which has gained about 47% since March, suffered its second down week in a row, while the Dow industrials, up 27% since March, and the S&P 500, up about 29%, snapped three-week winning streaks.

Friday marked the end of the busiest week of the third-quarter earnings season. Most companies so far have reported earnings in line with or better than expectations, but not strong enough to sustain the run-up in stock prices over the past seven months.

The InformationWeek 100 fell 0.31 points, or 0.1%, to 290.29. The technology-packed Nasdaq Composite Index fell 19.92 points, or 1.1%, to 1,865.59. The Dow industrials fell 30.67 points, or 0.3%, to 9,582.46, according to the latest data. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 fell 4.86 points, or 0.5%, to 1,028.91. For the week, the Nasdaq fell 2.5% and the InformationWeek 100 fell 2.1%, while the Dow fell 1.4% and the S&P 500 fell 1%. The Nasdaq-100 tracking stock rose 3 cents Friday to $34.20.

Leading the Dow lower was Microsoft, which fell $2.30, or 8%, to $26.61. It was Microsoft's largest one-day percentage drop since Sept. 17, 2001--the day the markets reopened after the attack on the World Trade Center. After the bell Thursday, the company posted a rise in quarterly profit and increased its outlook for the current fiscal year, although within the range expected by Wall Street. Microsoft said concerns over the security of its software had cut into new contracts in the latest quarter.