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Halted

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If there’s one word that might describe today, it would be “halted,” as shares of HealthSouth (NYSE:HRC), USA Interactive (NADAQ:USAI) and Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) have been halted for trading and are expected to remain halted for the rest of today’s session.

Shares of health services provider HealthSouth (HRC) $3.91 have not traded a share today and were halted for trade before today’s session began after the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged the company’s CEO Richard Scrushy with “a massive accounting fraud.” The commission said its complaint "alleges that since 1999, at the insistence of Scrushy, HealthSouth systematically overstated its earnings by at least $1.4 billion in order to meet or exceed Wall Street earnings expectations." The SEC said, "The false increases in earnings were matched by false increases in HealthSouth's assets. By the third quarter of 2002, HealthSouth's assets were overstated by at least $800 million, or approximately 10%."

Also halted for trading are USA Interactive (USAI), which owns a majority stake in Expedia (EXPE). Both stocks were halted for trade ahead of today’s 12:00 PM EST audiocast, in which USAI plans to update investors on its current quarter. USAI also owns a majority stake in shares of Hotels.com (NYSE:ROOM) $49.48 –7.06%, which are being hit lower not only on speculation of what USAI/EXPE might have to say in today’s call, but down in relation to competitor Priceline.com (NASDAQ:PCLN) $1.91 +29.9% inking a deal with Travelweb’s network, wich gives PCLN access to the networks 4,000 brand-name hotels.

The Dow Industrials (INDU) 8,171 has slipped into negative territory after holding above unchanged levels for the bulk of the morning, but now shows a 23-point loss.

The tech-heavy NASDAQ-100 Index (NDX.X) 1,064 –1.61% is lower by 17 points with sector weakness from the GSTI Software Index (GSO.X) 107 –3.5%, brought on by last night’s earnings report from Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) $11.32 –7.5%. Also weak in today’s session is the Semiconductor Index (SOX.X) 319.60 –2.57%, Disk Drive Index (DDX.X) 76.65 –1.6% and Fiber Optic (FOP.X) 51.8% -1.6%.

After reversing back up into “bull confirmed” status on its bullish % chart ($BPSPX) from yesterday’s trade, the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) 863 –0.4% is lower by 3.4 points.

Jeff Bailey

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