Drop in Philip Morris Stock Drags Down Dow Industrials

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) _ A dearth of market-moving news kept stocks mixed Thursday. Share prices closely followed the bond market, just as they have for weeks.

Analysts said inflation fears remain in check, for now, so there was little to push buying or selling ahead of the long Memorial Day weekend.

The Dow Jones industrial average was dragged down all day by Philip Morris, whose shares were hit after the company's directors voted against splitting their food and tobacco businesses. The blue chip average fell 1.84 points to 3,753.46.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 9-to-7 on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1,183 up, 915 down and 718 unchanged.

Big Board volume totaled 254.38 million shares as of 4 p.m., up from 252.06 million in the previous session.

Uncertainty about inflation _ and how high the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates to curb it _ has kept stock and bond investors nervous for several months. Higher rates and inflation can harm the value of both stock and bond investments.

Those fears have eased in the last seven trading days since the Fed announced what is expected to be the last rate rise for the next couple of months. As a result bond and stock prices have been tending higher.

However, the boost that stocks got from the last Fed action is petering out, said Ricky Harrington, senior vice president and technical analyst at Interstate-Johnson Lane in Charlotte, N.C. "The market has more or less reached an equilibrium. …