Markets & Finance

Stocks End Mixed


Stocks ended mixed on Friday as expectation-topping results from Software giant Microsoft (MSFT) helped the Nasdaq pull off a slight gain while the broader market stumbled as investors book profits from the recent run-up.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 54.89 points, or 0.52%, to 10,568.29. The blue chip market benchmark posted a slight loss on the week, snapping its eight-week winning streak. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index eased 2.39 points, or 0.21%, to 1,141.55. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index added 4.86 points, or 0.23%, to 2,123.87.

Next week's earnings calendar will again be jam-packed with reports from top U.S. companies. Among the big names due to release results next week are American Express (AXP) and McDonalds (MCD) on Monday, Amazon.com (AMZN) and Caterpillar (CAT) on Tuesday, and Altria (MO) and Tribune (TRB) on Wednesday.

Releases from Duke Energy (DUK) and ExxonMobil (XOM) on Thursday, and Wendy's International (WEN) on Friday round out the week.

On the economic front, the highlights of the coming week are the Federal Reserve's interest rate decision on Wednesday and the first look at fourth quarter GDP data on Friday. There is no chance the Fed will change its policy stance, says economic research outfit Informa/MMS, so all the attention will be on the policy statement, as it has been for the past several meetings.

There will also be plenty of data for the markets to ponder. On Monday, existing home sales figures for December, 2003, are expected to show a slight dip to a 5.9 million annualized pace from 6.06 million in the previous month. On Tuesday, the consumer confidence reading for January is seen decreasing to 91 from 91.3 in the previous month. On Wednesday orders for big ticket items are expected to register a 2.5% increase in December vs. a 2.5% decrease in the previous month. And on Thursday, jobless claims for the weekend ending Jan. 17 are due out.

On Friday, Jan. 23, software giant Microsoft posted 17% lower quarterly profit because of a change in its stock compensation plan. But the results still beat expectations and the company increased its revenue outlook because of stronger personal computer demand.

In other equities news, auto parts maker Visteon (VC) reported an $863 million fourth-quarter loss because of a restructuring of its deals with its former parent Ford (F), Visteon's largest customer.

Schlumberger (SLB), the world's largest oilfield services company, posted higher quarterly profit that topped expectations thanks to increased oil and natural gas drilling activity.

Forest products outfit Weyerhaeuser (WY) posted lower fourth-quarter earnings because of charges stemming from facility closures.

Air carrier Northwest Airlines (NWAC) reported a fourth-quarter loss excluding one-time items.

Amgen (AMGN), the world's largest biotech company, reported higher fourth quarter profits thanks to stronger drug sales although the results fell short of expectations.

Treasury Market

Treasuries switched course and dipped into the negative on Friday. In the absence of data and other major news -- and with another record large increase in foreign custody holdings in the weekly Fed report, Treasuries made new highs, but then reversed. Bonds were also hurt by a rebounding dollar due to a wire-service story that EU officials will tell the upcoming G7 meeting they are worried about the strength of the euro. Some traders were position squaring before next week's FOMC meeting.

World Markets

European stock markets closed mixed Friday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index eased 16 points, or 0.36%, to 4,460.80 even though UK fourth quarter gross domestic product rose 0.9%, which was the fastest pace in four years, and December retail sales rose 0.9%.

In Paris, the CAC 40 lost 2.24 points, or 0.06%, to 3,693.36. Drug company Aventis was higher and Sanofi-Synthelabo lower. NYT reports Sanofi will make a bid for Aventis.

Germany's DAX index added 11.97 points, or 0.29%, to 4,151.83 despite some disappointing earnings reports. Deutsche Bank was higher as its in talks with Xchanging to sell a majority of its European Transaction Bank unit. Porsche was lower as the luxury car company's first half earnings fell short of expectations.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index advanced 68.31 points, or 0.62%, to close at 11,069.01.

Hong Kong's market was closed for the Lunar New Year celebration.


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