Markets & Stocks
Red at open
Developments on the Iraq and North Korea fronts punish major markets in early trading.
February 25, 2003: 9:40 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - U.S. stocks dove at the open Tuesday, as uncertainty on the international front once again gripped investors as tensions with Iraq and North Korea continued to build up.

Traders also awaited a key reading on consumer confidence.

Just after the opening bell, the Nasdaq composite (down 16.21 to 1306.17, Charts) sank more than 1 percent, while the S&P 500 index (down 6.48 to 826.10, Charts) and the Dow Jones industrial average (down 56.80 to 7801.44, Charts) also dropped sharply.

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein said his nation won't destroy missiles that U.N. inspectors have found to be in violation of restrictions, as he does not think they violate restrictions, a CBS interview revealed. Hans Blix, the United Nations' chief weapons inspector, had given the nation until Saturday to begin destroying the missiles.

On Monday, the United States and Britain drafted a new resolution for U.N. consideration that would allow military action, while France, Russia, and Germany proposed giving weapons inspectors more time.

Meanwhile, investors were wary after North Korea test-fired a missile into the Sea of Japan as South Korea was inaugurating its new president and U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell was attending the inauguration.

Two Dow components were on the day's earnings schedule.

Home improvement retailer Home Depot (HD: up $0.14 to $22.32, Research, Estimates) reported better-than-expected results, earning 30 cents a share in its fiscal fourth quarter, in line with the same quarter last year, but better than the 27-cents a share that Wall Street expected. Analysts had lowered their forecast from 31 cents a share after the company lowered its sales and profit guidance on Jan. 2.

After the close, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ: down $0.21 to $17.54, Research, Estimates) is set to report its fiscal first-quarter results. They're seen coming in at 28 cents a share, up from 23 cents in the prior year.

But even more important than corporate news to trading later in the day, could be some key economic data.

The Conference Board was set to report its February figure for consumer confidence at 10 a.m. ET. The index is forecast to drop to 77 from 79 in January, according to economists surveyed by

Also at 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors issues its report on existing home sales for January. The figure is expected to dip to an annual rate of 5.80 million from the 5.86 million reported in December.

Asian markets tumbled on news of the North Korean missile test. European stocks also slid in morning trading.

Treasury prices rose in early trading, sending the 10-year note yield down to 3.79 percent from 3.85 percent late Monday. The dollar lost ground against the yen and euro.

The heightened tensions in the world helped send Brent oil futures up 45 cents to $33.60 a barrel in London. Gold for April delivery rose 70 cents an ounce to $357.10.  Top of page

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