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Wall St. falls on profit worries, oil

2/07/2008 - 21:39

By Deborah Jian Lee

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell in volatile trade on Wednesday as investors worried about the outlook for corporate profits and the toll of record oil prices on automakers' prospects.

Shares of General Motors dropped more than 10 percent after Merrill Lynch said the automaker will need to raise about $15 billion in cash to shore up liquidity and bankruptcy is "not impossible" if the auto market continues to slump.

Investors also sold of shares of big-cap technology companies such as Microsoft Corp and Intel Corp, both down more than 1 percent.

Shares of big manufacturers also tumbled. Caterpillar Inc and Alcoa Inc shares both fell more than 3 percent.

Investors were nervous a day before the government's payrolls report, due before Thursday's opening bell. Investors were also concerned that Wall Street's profit estimates may have further to fall to reflect a weak economy.

"I think the third quarter is going to be a quarter that is singled out as a period where profit estimates come in line with realistic expectation," said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey. "You will see profit estimates across the board, not just for financials, lowered."

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 63.76 points, or 0.56 percent, to 11,318.50. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 8.07 points, or 0.63 percent, to 1,276.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 31.24 points, or 1.36 percent, to 2,273.73.

Shares of General Motors fell 11.1 percent to $10.45.

Caterpillar was the biggest drag on the Dow, with its stock down 3.5 percent at $71.53. Shares of Alcoa tumbled 4.8 percent to $32.79.

Microsoft shares fell 2.1 percent to $26.31.

On the bright side, Deutsche Bank , helped calm some of the concerns about banks when Germany's biggest lender said it now expects a quarterly profit compared with a loss a year ago and would not need any more capital.

Deutsche Bank had been hit with $8 billion in write-downs from the credit crisis. Its announcement underpinned gains among bank stocks, with shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co up 2.3 percent to $34.81.

On the economic front, new orders at U.S. factories rose by a sharper-than-expected 0.6 percent in May on a boost in orders for new aircraft, a Commerce Department report said.

U.S. crude for August delivery was up $1.62 at $142.59 a barrel.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)

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