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Jitters pull Dow and Nasdaq down

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The neurotic gnomes of New York had a field day yesterday after the Greenspan disappointment. Fretting over an uncertain future US economy pushed the Dow down 238 points (3 per cent), and Nasdaq by 2.3 per cent. The Nikkei reached a 12-year low, reflecting the inability of the Japanese government to sort out the Japanese economy. Still, there will probably be another quarter per cent reduction in interest rates by the Fed on 29 November. One of the results was a tough session for the telecom sector. Nortel, the number two in the North American phone business, warned that because of weak demand in Europe as well as Asia, revenue would not meet expectations, and fell 10 per cent. The ripple took its toll on both Lucent (down 7 per cent) and Nokia (down 3 per cent). AT&T fell 2.5 per cent on the rumour of its interest in acquiring IBM's global network. AOL suffered when an undisclosed nervous investor sold a million shares (for around $115 million), causing AOL to lose 5 per cent. If any further evidence that stock prices do not reflect reality were required, Amazon.com was down only 1 per cent after being off-line for nine hours yesterday for what it called "scheduled maintenance". This explanation seems unlikely. The company claimed the maintenance took five hours longer expected, but this still means that it planned to be down for four hours, and it is most revealing that a significant (though unprofitable) online vendor cannot keep it systems up around the clock. We wonder what software caused the problem. Ovid Technologies, a specialist in medical and scientific content, was acquired by Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer (whose merger with Reed Elsevier was turned down by regulators) for about $200 million in shares, representing a 19 per cent premium. NCR went up 8 per cent after it bought the Decision Support Services Group unfit of Medaphis for an undisclosed sum. ® Click for more stories

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