*DM Stocks Join in Friday’s Plunge

As inflation fears sent the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq stock markets to their worst single-day point losses in history on Friday, the stock prices of several direct marketers went along for the ride.

These companies and those that service them had suffered declines during the wild weeks preceding Friday’s plunge, but the massive sell-off of April 14 — which hit financial services firms the hardest — just chipped away at DM stocks’ fractured values.

Amazon.com, which had lost about 35 percent of its price in the previous two weeks, fell another 2.5 percent to close at $46.875, down from just over $70 at the start of the month. E-mail list marketer Netcreations was down more than 50 percent for April, closing at $22 after a 26.36-percent drop in Friday’s trading. Internet computer reseller and cataloger Multiple Zones also was down more than 50 percent for the month, closing at $4 Friday after a single-day drop of nearly 30 percent.

Insight Enterprises, another direct reseller of computer products, actually was up slightly for the month at $30.813, despite an 11.8-percent drop in Friday’s trading. Computer direct marketer Gateway held its own, closing at $51.50 and suffering a slide of less than 1 percent Friday, while DM stalwart Dell Computer Corp. lost almost 8 percent in Friday’s trading to close at $47.625.

Catalog stocks were a mixed bag, with a few companies, such as Delia’s Inc., up 3 percent to $3.25; Brookstone Inc., up 0.35 percent to $18.125; and Lillian Vernon, up about 2.5 percent to $10, all recording gains in Friday’s down market. Lands’ End Inc. didn’t fare as well, however, with a drop of about 12.15 percent to $50.625, and J. Jill Group Inc. joined it on the downslide with a 7-percent decline to close at $4.125.

Among the service companies that lost value were Acxiom Corp., down 9.21 percent to $25.25; Harte-Hanks Inc., down 3.23 percent to $22.438; and InfoUSA, down 6.73 percent to $6.063.

Friday’s decline, which followed weeks of jitters about the viability of some e-commerce companies and other high-tech concerns, was fueled by government figures indicating higher-than-expected inflation in March. That could translate to higher interest rates or more expensive borrowing.

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