Markets & Finance

Stocks Close Higher


Major stock indexes rose modestly Tuesday in light volume, as select retail, biotech and info tech names made gains, according to Standard & Poor's MarketScope. Market strength may have partly reflected bargain-hunting after weakness in March.

On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 37.32 points, or 0.36%, to 10,458.46. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.27 points, or 0.45%, to 1,181.39. The Nasdaq composite index added 8.25 points, or 0.41%, to 1,999.32.

Looking ahead to Wednesday, among the companies reporting quarterly earnings are aluminium producer Alcoa (AA), housewares retailer Bed, Bath and Beyond (BBBY) and agricultural giant Monsanto (MON).

Oil prices fell Tuesday after reaching record highs on Monday on speculation that crude stocks would rise. Crude oil prices fell 1.70% to $56.04 per barrel as early gains failed to attract long-term buying.

In a speech to the National Petrochemicals Association, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said higher oil inventories may ease some of the price "frenzy." According to Action Economics, Greenspan's comments "implied little Fed appetite for interventionism, verbal or otherwise, which could have knocked oil prices down further."

U.S. companies announced 86,396 layoffs in March, down 20.3% from February's 108,387, but up 27% from March of last year, employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Tuesday.

In corporate news, investment bank Morgan Stanley (MWD) announced after the close Monday that it will spin off its Discover Card division to current shareholders, in an attempt to appease dissident shareholders who have been critical of chief executive Philip Purcell. On Tuesday, the chairman of Morgan Stanley International, David Walker, told Reuters that he did not expect a takeover of the bank. Its stock was trading 3.5% lower.

At an analyst meeting, Dow component Pfizer (PFE) on Tuesday forecast earnings this year of $2 per share, which is 6 percent lower than last year and less than analysts expected. The drug giant also announced it will attempt to shave $4 billion in costs over the next four years as it faces patent expirations and safety concerns over its pain-reliever Celebrex. Its stock price rose 4%.

Internet search engine Google (GOOG) climbed 2% after Lehman Brothers upgraded the company to overweight from equal weight, citing strong growth prospects.

In earnings news, greeting card maker American Greetings (AM) on Tuesday reported a lower-than-expected drop in fourth quarter earnings, to $21.4 million, compared to $48.3 million in the period a year ago. The company also said it would start repurchasing up to $200 million in stock and would also raise its quarterly cash dividend by 33%.

Research in Motion (RIMM), maker of the Blackberry email device, was scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday after the close.

Treasury Market

Treasury prices were mostly lower Tuesday, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note finishing at 4.47%.

World Markets

European stock markets closed higher on Tuesday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 46.20 points, or 0.94%, to 4,942.90.

Germany's DAX index rose 21.22 points, or 0.49%, to 4,362.61.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index gained 35.62 points, or 0.88%, to 4,087.94.

Asian markets finished higher on Tuesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index gained 106.77 points, or 0.92%, to 11,774.31.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 22.06 points, or 0.16%, to 13,513.41.


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