Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Higher


Major stock indexes finished the day higher Friday, as investors were heartened by a stock split from computer maker Apple (APPL) and by expectations that demand for chips from Intel (INTC) and other semiconductor companies would remain strong.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average added 46.40 points, or 0.43%, to close at 10,796.01. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index ended the day up 8.29 points, or 0.69%, at 1,205.3. The Nasdaq composite index gained 23.56 points, or 1.15%, to close at 2,076.66.

Looking ahead to next week, among the companies reporting earnings are soft-drink giant Coca-Cola (KO) and computer maker Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) on Wednesday, and discount retailers Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) on Thursday.

Next week, a number of economic reports for the month of January will also be released, including retail sales on Tuesday, housing starts on Wednesday, and the producer price index, a measure of wholesale inflation, on Friday.

Friday's rally was led by chip outfits like Intel and Novellus Systems (NVLS), a maker of semiconductor manufacturing tools whose share price surged after Credit Suisse First Boston upgraded the company's stock from neutral to outperform.

Also boosting the markets was the news from Apple, which said its board had approved a two-for-one stock split. The company has seen its fortunes rise thanks to its iPod digital music player.

In other tech news, online auctioneer eBay (EBAY) said it was sticking to its 2005 targets of achieving profit growth of 22% to 26% and revenue growth of 30% to 33%.

Keeping a lid on tech gains, though, was PC maker Dell (DELL) which announced lackluster sales to consumers and a less-than-stellar forecast.

Meantime, semiconductor outfit Analog Devices (ADI) reported earnings and sales fell in the most recent quarter mainly because of a glut of Chinese-made cellphones.

In other stocks news, The Wall Street Journal reported that drugmaker Pfizer (PFE) seeks to cut $2 billion in costs and wants to change the way it markets its products to doctors.

Pixar Animation Studios (PIXR) said The Incredibles movie helped the company top earnings targets.

Upscale gift retailer Sharper Image (SHRP) forecast profits that were lower than expectations.

On the oil front, crude prices on the NYMEX settled up 6 cents at $47.16, with the Paris-based IEA lowering expectations for Russian supply growth, while raising its forecast for global oil demand growth this year.

Treasury Market

Treasuries traded lower with the yield on the 10-year Treasury ending the day at 4.09%, as equities gained strength. S&P MarketScope notes that there is much debate whether Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, at next Wednesday's Senate Banking Committee testimony, will discuss a Fed policy change.

World Markets

European stock markets closed higher on Friday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index gained 5 points, or 0.10%, to 5,005, on the back of a rise in steelmaker Corus and talk of possible mergers. Marks & Spencer also gained after Lehman raised its rating on the stock to overweight from equal-weight.

Germany's DAX index was up 45.79 points, or 1.05%, to 4,387.80 even though January wholesale prices increased and the OECD's December leading Eurozone leading indicator was unchanged at 106.1. A late-session boost from strong U.S. markets helped buoy the market. RWE was among the gainers, after Morgan Stanley raised its rating on stock to overweight from equal- weight.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index gained 46.38 points, or 1.17%, ending at 4,016.75, a 32-month high after staging a late-day sprint. The market was being helped by a report that French flash fourth quarter GDP rose more than expected by 0.75%. Danone, which said it expects to report higher 2005 earnings, was higher. Arcelor was higher after company agreed to sell its Techalloy unit to Canada's Central Wire Industries.

Japan's market was closed on Friday as was Hong Kong's.


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