Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Mixed on Oil, Economic News


Stocks finished narrowly mixed Friday, faced with news of an explosion at an oil facility in Saudia Arabia, a disappointing earnings forecast from a big retailer, and slumping durable goods orders. Energy groups led the market higher amid light trading, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 7.37 points, or 0.07%, to 11,061.85, ending the week down by 0.48%. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index squeaked higher 1.64 points, or 0.13%, to 1,289.43, losing 0.15% on the week. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 7.72 points, or 0.34%, to 2,287.04, a weekly gain of 0.22%.

Investors should expect continued volatility in the next 10 months, some analysts say. "This year has been a market for all types, and in just eight weeks," says Henry McVey, chief U.S. investment strategist at Morgan Stanley. "If you don't like what you see today, then just give it a day or two."

Economic news was in focus Friday. January durable goods orders fell 10.2%, a much bigger drop than expected, says Action Economics. But the underlying details of the report were stronger, says John Ryding, chief U.S. economist for Bear Stearns. Markets will also be watching consumer confidence and the Institute for Supply Management's figures, both due next week. Monday's release of January new home sales is seen rising 2.1%.

With earnings season winding down, clothing retailer Gap (GPS) on late Thursday posted an 11% drop in fourth-quarter profits and issued lower-than-expected guidance for 2006. The stock fell nearly 4%.

Also in retail, Nordstrom (JWN) was 4% lower as Deutsche Bank cut the department store chain from buy to hold. Kohl's (KSS) was more than 5% higher after the company's fourth-quarter profit of $1.08 a share beat estimates.

Earning are due Monday from Lowe's (LOW) and Newmont Mining (NEM).

Among other companies in the news Friday, Time Warner (TWX) said CNN founder Ted Turner will not seek re-election to the media conglomerate's board. Intel (INTC) rose slightly despite its second broker downgrade in a week, this time by Friedman Billings Ramsey. Tax preparer H&R Block (HRB)sank more than 8% after lowering its fiscal 2006 profit forecast.

In legal action, a federal court judge declined to issue an immediate injunction in the patent dispute involving BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM). Shares shot up nearly 7%.

On the M&A front, KeySpan (KSE) rose almost 1% after a report that U.K.-based National Grid (NGG) may buy the U.S. natural gas distributor.

In the energy markets Friday, April West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures settled higher $2.37 at $62.91, following a foiled attack on a Saudi refinery.

European markets finished mostly higher. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 24.5 points, or 0.42%, to 5,860.5. Germany's DAX index added 12.91 points, or 0.22%, to 5,870.79. In Paris, the CAC 40 index climbed 33.56 points, or 0.67%, to 5,073.95.

Asian markets finished higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 index nudged modestly higher 5.81 points, or 0.04%, to 16,101.91. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 43.52 points, or 0.28%, to 15,856.05. Korea's Kospi index climbed 4.59 points, or 0.34%, to 1,365.82.

Treasury Market

Prices for 10-year Treasury notes were slightly lower in afternoon trading at 99-14/32 with a yield of 4.57%, while 30-year bonds fell to 99-20/32 for a yield of 4.52%. The yield curve was inverted.


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