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Earnings blanket Wall St.
graphic October 18, 2001: 8:56 a.m. ET

Quarterly profit reports could distract investors from anthrax scare.
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    NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Fears about bio-terrorism will compete for investor attention with another blitz of quarterly financial results Thursday, one of the busiest days yet for third-quarter reports.

    Twenty percent of the companies in the Dow Jones industrial average have or will announce earnings by day's end.

    Early indications pointed to a flat to slightly higher start for the major stock market indexes, which tumbled Wednesday.

    Anthrax remains the major concern after word that 31 Congressional employees have tested positive for exposure to the bacteria. The source appears to have been a letter received earlier this week in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. As a result, the House has shut down until next Tuesday and offices of both House and Senate members are being checked for the bacteria.

    The markets were also shaken when it was revealed that anthrax was found in the New York City office of New York Gov. George Pataki.

    "We're trying to get back to normal in a situation that is proving to be anything but," said John Forelli, portfolio manager at Independence Investment.

    Separately, the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pa., is on heightened alert after officials said they received a "credible threat" to the facility, scene of the nation's worst-ever nuclear accident in 1979.

    Drug maker Merck (MRK: Research, Estimates) reported that profit rose to 84 cents a share in the third quarter, matching Wall Street forecasts, from 78 cents a share a year earlier. Merck shares fell 55 cents to $68.50 in before-hours trading Thursday.

    Coca-Cola (KO: Research, Estimates) said profit came in flat at 45 cents a share. Coke shares lost 26 cents to $44.28 Wednesday.

    General Motors (GM: Research, Estimates), the No. 1 automaker, reported better-than-expected earnings of 85 cents a share, down from $1.55 a year earlier. But the company issued a warning about the fourth quarter. GM rose 33 cents to $43.10 in before-hours trading Thursday.

    Boeing (BA: Research, Estimates) said third-quarter profit rose to 88 cents per share, topping forecasts by a penny a share. The company's shares fell 20 cents to $33.50 in before-hours trading.

    After the close, Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates), another Dow stock, is expected to post lower third-quarter earnings. Microsoft shares rose 37 cents to $56.40 in before-hours trading Thursday.

    The Dow industrials start the session at 9,232.97 after dropping 151 points Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite index is at 1,646.34 after losing nearly 76 points, its biggest drop since Sept. 17, when the markets reopened after being closed following the terrorist attacks. The Standard & Poor's 500 stands at 1,077.09 following a 20-point downturn.

    Asian stocks followed the lead of U.S. tech issues to close broadly lower Thursday. Tech weakness also contributed to a lower start to Europe's trading day.

    Treasury prices were little changed, with the yield on the 10-year note rising to 4.56 percent from 4.55 percent late Wednesday. The dollar was flat against the euro and lower versus the yen. Brent oil futures slipped 44 cents to $20.55 a barrel in London, a two-year low.

    After the close of trading Wednesday, Apple Computer (AAPL: Research, Estimates) reported fiscal fourth-quarter operating earnings of $65 million, or 18 cents per share, above expectations. Apple shares fell 4 cents to $16.95 in before-hours trading Thursday.

    And Advanced Micro Devices (AMD: Research, Estimates) , the chipmaker, lost 28 cents per share in its third quarter, in line with forecasts. AMD shares fell 26 cents to $9.45 before hours.

    The number of Americans filing for first-time jobless claims rose 6,000 to 490,000 in the latest week, according to a government report. Joblessness continues to climb as companies try to cut costs following last month's attacks.

    Meanwhile, President Bush arrived in China for the conference of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where he and other U.S. officials will try to gain support for the war against terrorism. graphic

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    Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.

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