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Rather flat this expiration Friday

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Stocks remain stuck near unchanged levels as we near the end of option expiration Friday. The major indexes are holding positive ground, but just marginally so, and have been either side of unchanged for the bulk of the afternoon.

Shares of Surebeam (NASDAQ:SURE) $3.53 +40% are leading today's gainer list after Gerard Klauer Mattison calls yesterday's approval and upcoming enactment of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service rule, which governs the importation of irradiated plant products, a pivotal point is Surebeam's (SURE) history. The firm expects SURE to convert 4 letters of intent into firm orders and book other orders for system sales to international customers, and now believes the company will end the year with the firm's 2003 revenue forecast already in backlog. GKM reiterated its "buy" rating and 12-month price target of $7.00. Trader's may remember SURE's meteoric rise last fall from $5 to $15 on speculation that the company's electronic pasteurization systems could be used to irradiate Anthrax contaminated mail and concern about the nation's food supply just after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Brokerage Index (XBD.X) 397 -0.98% and Insurance Index (IUX.X) 268 -1.43 offset strength in both the bank indexes (BIX.X) 284 +0.7% and (BKX.X) 746 +0.14% as Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) $70.31 -3% and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MWD) $37.03 -2.68 lead broker weakness. There are market rumors floating around that a major Japanese insurance company may be going under. While this would not come as a surprise to many with the Japanese markets near 20-year lows, its possible that weakness in both the Insurance and Brokerage Indexes are found due to this speculation.

Volume on both the NYSE and NASDAQ is average with just over 1.2 billion shares traded on the NYSE and approaching the 1.5 billion mark on the NASDAQ.

Breadth is at a standstill with the NYSE marginally negative with decliners outnumber advancers by a 16 to 15 margin, while NASDAQ is just the inverse with advancers having a slight edge at 16 to 15.

New highs versus new lows widens a smidge, with the NYSE showing 22 stocks at new highs versus 94 new lows (01:00 was 19/77) while NASDAQ has 21 stocks at new highs versus 54 new lows (01:00 was 15/42).

Jeff Bailey

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