Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Higher


Stocks closed higher Friday, recovering some of Thursday's losses and bolstered by a lower-than-expected wholesale inflation report. Trading was light as traders squared their positions ahead of the long holiday weekend.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 52.17 points, or 0.50%, to 10,558.00. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 7.07 points, or 0.60%, to 1,184.52. The Nasdaq composite index rose 17.35 points, or 0.84%, moving to 2,087.91.

Oil futures closed higher Friday, moving up 36 cents to $48.40 a barrel as NYMEX trading wrapped at 1:00 p.m. EDT for the holiday.

Next week on the economic calendar, look for the NAHB Housing Market Index on Tuesday and December's consumer price index and housing starts figures on Wednesday. The December CPI is expected to be unchanged, with the ex-food and energy figure rising 0.2%. Housing starts are expected at 1.94 million on an annualized basis.

Next week also brings a host of fourth-quarter earnings reports, including tech luminaries Yahoo (YHOO), Motorola (MOT) and IBM (IBM) on Tuesday. Wednesday brings reports from blue-chips JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Pfizer (PFE).

Friday's headline economic report was a reading on wholesale inflation. The U.S.

producer price index (PPI) sank by 0.7% in December, with the core index rising 0.1%, both well below median estimates. On a year to year basis, the PPI is up 4.1%, vs. 5.0% in November.

U.S. business inventories rose 1.0% in November, above median estimates, with sales rising by 0.4% as well. Meanwhile, U.S. industrial production rose 0.8% in December, also above estimates.

In corporate news, Marsh & McClennan (MMC) offered to settle out of court for $600 million with the New York State Attorney General's office. Spitzer seeks $750 million, however, and a public statement of contrition, says the Wall Street Journal.

Epix Pharmaceuticals (EPIX) reported that the FDA requested additional clinical studies of its new drug for use in MRI procedures, to prove its efficacy.

Beer companies Coors (RKY) and Molson agreed to increase the special dividend given to Molson shareholders as part of the merger. Shareholders of Molson, which is traded on the Toronto index, will receive $5.44 Canadian vs. $3.26 Canadian. Press reports have indicated that rival SABMiller is interested in making a competing bid for Molson.

A Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) spokeswoman reported that 300 stents, used for heart care, were withdrawn from the market due to defects.

After the close of trading Thursday, Sun Microsystems (SUNW), the server maker, posted a small second-quarter profit of only 1 cent per share, meeting average estimates.

Semiconductor company Cree (CREE) posted second-quarter earnings of 32 cents vs. 17 cents last year, falling one cent short of analyst estimates. Cree also said its profit margins had declined.

Paper producer Bowater (BOW) said to expect a fourth quarter loss of 45 to 55 cents a share, well below Wall Street expectations.

Treasury Market

Treasury prices fell in Friday's holiday-shortened session amid speculation there will be a faster pace of rate hikes following statements by the St. Louis Fed President. Stronger-than-expected industrial production also weighed against the healthy inflation numbers. Yields on the benchmark ten-year note rose to 4.21%.

In currencies, the dollar moved lower after strengthening on the back of the inflation data. The euro traded at $1.310.

World Markets

European stock markets closed higher Friday.

In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index gained 21.80 points, or 0.45%, moving to 4,822.10.

Germany's DAX index rose 20.22 points, or 0.48%, to 4,232.36.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index went up 20.49 points, or 0.53%, to 3,854.60.

Asian markets finished mixed Friday. Tokyo's Nikkei average rose 80.17 points, or 0.71%, to 11,438.39.. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 78.50 points, or 0.58%, to close at 13,494.78.


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