US stocks close down on downgrades, profit taking

NEW YORK: Stocks posted their first noteworthy losses of 2006 Thursday as analyst downgrades of two Dow Jones industrials and rising oil prices prompted investors to take profits one session after the major indexes reached new multiyear highs. 

Analysts said The Coca-Cola Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. could face difficulties in 2006 as the economy slows and consumers limit their spending _ both of which could have a much broader impact on stocks as the year goes on. 

Oil prices initially rose, deepening stocks' losses, but ultimately lost ground and settled at US$63.94, unchanged from the previous session, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.  

The volatility was prompted by the breakdown of talks with Iran over its restarted nuclear research programme. 

Yet despite the losses and lingering uncertainties, analysts said Wall Street's January rally likely would continue. 

"You're seeing some selling now, some consolidation maybe, but I'd be cautious of that. The market's been very resilient,'' said Brian Williamson, equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management. 

"Investors have been very quick to buy if they get a little good news.'' 

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 81.08, or 0.73 percent, to 10,962.36. 

Broader stock indicators also fell.  

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8.12, or 0.63 percent, to 1,286.06, and the Nasdaq composite index dropped 14.67, or 0.63 percent, to 2,316.69. - AP 

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