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Rumors give stocks a lift

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Rumors that Saddam Hussein had been captured, which have now been denied had the major indexes reversing earlier losses as the S&P 500 Index (SPX.X) 896.40 +0.49% jumped to the 900 level after trading as low as 886.70 in the early going.

In the past 15-minutes, the indexes have pulled back from those highs after MSNBC reported that a white powdery substance had been found at a mail distribution center in Tacoma, Washington. Some early reports suggested that initial tests revealed the powder might be some type of biotoxin. Authorities on the scene said it would take at least another hour to properly identify the powder. Still, rumors have circulated that some tests reportedly indicate botulism and plague.

While stocks have been whipsawed on an intra-morning trade with the Dow Industrials (INDU) 8,338 +0.12% now holding an 11-point gain after finding a morning low of 8,264, Treasuries did see some modest selling on this morning's "rumors" and "speculation," but continue to find buyers with the 10-year June futures contract (ty03m) $114'110 +0.28% gaining 10/32 with the benchmark bond's YIELD ($TNX.X) falling 3.1 basis points to 3.948%.

June Gold futures (gc03m) $334.30 +0.11% have given back all of this morning's gains and now look to fill this morning's gap higher from $333.50 and news of the "white powder" have had little impact at this point on this morning's reversal back lower.

Shares of SureBeam Corp. (NASDAQ:SURE) $2.71 +14.22% have jumped to their best levels of the session and bulls speculate today's events might build demand for the company's irradiation product. Shares of SURE have been under selling pressure and have lost more than 1/2 of their value in recent weeks after the company's CEO and Chairman Larry Oberkfell resigned unexpectedly and effective March 31 to accept a position with the Schwan Food Company as President and COO of their food services group.

Sector action, which had been broadly negative just prior to the "Saddam rumors" have turned broadly green, with marginal gains across the sectors. The S&P Insurance Index (IUX.X) 257.50 +2.36% has been building gains from its open, while the Defense Index (DFX.X) 148.28 +1.61% sees gains on the heels of Lockheed Martin's (NYSE:LMT) $48.07 +6.23% upside earnings report and raising of fiscal year 2003 EPS of $2.20-$2.30, which was above consensus estimates of $2.20.

Most actives at this hour have Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW) $3.27 -0.12%, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) $18.51 -0.75%, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) $25.36 +0.59%, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) $14.05 +0.8% and Lucent (NYSE:LU) $1.63 +3.16% this morning's 5-most actively traded stocks.

Jeff Bailey

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