NEW YORK – Stocks fell across the board Wednesday after a profit warning from Coca-Cola Co. (KO) renewed investors' doubts about earnings growth in the second half, while technology shares came under pressure from a negative call from Goldman Sachs.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) fell 86.80 points, or 0.84 percent, to 10,231.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) closed down 7.96 points, or 0.71 percent, at 1,120.37. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index (search) ended down 18.88 points, or 0.99 percent, at 1,896.52.
Shares of Coca-Cola, the world's biggest soft drink company, touched a 16-month low and helped drag the blue-chip Dow Jones index to its lowest close since Sept. 1. Coke said second-half earnings would be below estimates.
Investors had hoped a better-than-expected quarterly earnings report from Oracle Corp. would help technology stocks. But adding pressure to technology shares, the Goldman Sachs Group lowered its ratings on both hardware and software stocks based on its latest survey of corporate officers who oversee high-tech spending.
"We've been saying for a while that investors need to be much more selective ... this is a stock-picking kind of market," said John Caldwell, chief investment strategist for McDonald Financial Group. "It may be that Coke's problems are just Coke's problems. On the flip side of that, there are a number of companies out there that are saying relatively good things."
The Federal Reserve (search) reported only a 0.1 percent rise in industrial production in August, surprising economists who had forecast a 0.5 percent gain. The feeble rise, which follows a robust 0.6 percent advance in July, suggests the economy may still be working through the "soft patch" Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan (search) referred to in remarks before Congress last week.
In addition to disheartening news on both the economic and corporate fronts, light trading ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, contributed to the downward pressure on stocks. Still, after more than a month of decent gains, analysts said it made sense for equities to take a pause on less-than-encouraging news.
"We are going to need some positive data points from companies, and we haven't had that," said Neil Massa, senior trader at John Hancock Funds.
"It's been abysmal, to be honest — the guidance has not been that great. Everyone was assuming the second half of this year was going to be this big recovery and it is just not happening ... We may already have hit our highs for the year a while ago."
Energy costs have also been a persistent worry for investors, and already uncomfortably high oil prices headed skyward this week as Hurricane Ivan (search) menaced rigs, threw tankers off course and significantly cut daily production in the Gulf of Mexico. Prices fell back as the storm took aim at the Alabama and Mississippi coasts late Wednesday, and light, sweet crude for October delivery declined 81 cents to settle at $43.58 per barrel.
In an effort to quell anxiety about global crude supplies, the 11-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (search) announced it would raise its target oil production by 1 million barrels a day later this year. Many analysts dismissed this as a largely symbolic gesture, however, since the cartel is already pumping beyond the new quota.
Shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO) rose 1 percent to $11.26 after Stewart said she wants to start serving her jail sentence for lying about a suspicious stock sale as soon as possible, so she can put her "nightmare" behind her.
Dow component Coca-Cola fell 4 percent, or $1.71, to $41.16, after warning that results for the second half of the year were likely to fall short of expectations due to weaker sales and challenging conditions in key markets.
Celestica Inc. (CLS) sank 14 percent, or $1.97, to $12.60, after lowering its third-quarter forecast, citing a drop in orders from several top customers, which the manufacturer of electronics components declined to identify.
The Toronto-based company's largest customers include such tech concerns as Cisco Systems Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc. and International Business Machines Corp., and those stocks posted declines, as well. Cisco (CSCO) fell 79 cents to $19.56, Lucent (LU) shed 9 cents to $3.32, and IBM (IBM) was down 35 cents at $86.37.
There was some bright news; the nation's leading consumer electronics retailer, Best Buy Co. (BBY), gained 4.6 percent, or $2.32, to $52.61, after reporting a nearly 8 percent increase in second-quarter earnings, helped by improved cost controls and margins. The results beat analysts' estimates by a penny a share.
Shares of Home Depot Inc. (HD) climbed to a 2-year high. Those in the path of Hurricane Ivan and other storms this hurricane season have been stocking up on supplies like lumber and gas-powered generators that the retailer sells. The stock was up 35 cents at $38.49.
Trading was moderate, with 1.3 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange (search ), just under the 1.4 billion daily average for last year. About 1.6 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, below the 1.69 billion daily average last year.
The number of stocks declining on the NYSE outnumbered those that rose 19 to 13, while declining stocks outnumbered advancers by about 3 to 2 on Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, was down 2.44, or 0.4 percent, at 568.52.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 1.2 percent lower Wednesday. In Europe, France's CAC-40 shed 0.4 percent for the session, Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.1 percent and Germany's DAX index lost 0.15 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.