Markets & Finance

Stocks Post Broad Gains


Stocks finished broadly higher Friday, with blue chips leading the advance on the back of an upward revision to a measure of fourth-quarter U.S. economic growth, and a brokerage upgrade of Dow industrials component Exxon Mobil (XOM). The homebuilding, steel, energy, and semiconductor sectors all posted strong performances.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 95.11 points, or 0.88%, to 10,843.90. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index went up 11.50 points, or 0.96%, to 1,211.70. Both the Dow and the "500" closed at year-to-date highs. The Nasdaq composite index gained 12.42 points, or 0.61%, moving to 2,064.12.

Crude oil futures finished up 10 cents Friday, to $51.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On Friday, the preliminary reading of fourth-quarter

gross domestic product (GDP) was revised upwward, to 3.8% from an advance number of 3.1%.

Next week on the economic calendar, watch for the February Chicago purchasing managers' index and January personal income numbers on Monday, the February manufacturing data from the Institute of Supply Management and vehicle sales on Tuesday, and the February non-manufacturing ISM number on Thursday.

Up ahead in earnings news, H.J. Heinz (HNZ) will announce its third-quarter earnings on Monday, Marsh & McLennan (MMC) and Progressive (PGR) will announce their fourth quarter results on Tuesday, and Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) will make its fourth-quarter announcement Friday.

In corporate news Friday, Feb. 25, Clear Channel Communications (CCU) booked a $4.7 billion loss on an accounting charge made to comply with Federal regulations. Excluding the charge, Clear Channel's earnings were 37 cents per share in the fourth quarter, vs. 30 cents per share last year.

Qwest (Q) modified its bid for telco MCI (MCIP). The offer is still $24.60 per MCI share, but Qwest agreed to make earlier dividend payouts.

Apparel retailer Gap (GPS) announced fourth-quarter earnings after the close Thursday. The company reported earnings of 40 cents a share, vs. 37 cents last year. Gap saw a decline in same-store sales of 3%, and flat total sales.

Security software developer McAfee (MFE) saw a 10% revenue decline, and fourth-quarter earnings of 26 cents vs. 43 cents per share last year. McAfee also raised its earnings guidance for 2005. The company also said it would delay the release of its annual earnings report.

Movie studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) posted earnings of 16 cents per share for the fourth quarter, vs. 25 cents last year, on a 16.5% revenue decline. Standard & Poor's reiterated its hold rating on the stock.

Treasury Market

Treasuries showed a muted reaction to the upward GDP revision for the fourth quarter, as traders squared off their positions for the weekend and prepare for next week's economic reports, says Action Economics. The yield on the 10-year note moved to 4.26%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished higher Friday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 was up 23.30 points, or 0.47%, to 4,995.40.

Germany's DAX index rose 42.36 points, or 0.98%, to 4,346.65.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index went up 50.98 points, or 1.28%, to 4,028.65.

Asian markets closed higher Friday. Japan's Nikkei-225 index rose 127.10 points, or 1.10%, to close at 11,658.25. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index rose 96.18 points, or 0.68%, to 14,0157.09.


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