Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Higher Despite GM


Stocks finished narrowly higher Friday, as market players shrugged off downbeat news from a Big Three automaker and sifted through mild economic data. Volume was high due to the quarterly expiration of futures and options, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.41 points, or 0.23%, to 11,279.65, bolstered by Boeing (BA) and United Technologies (UTX). The blue-chip index gained 1.8% on the week. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index edged higher 1.92 points, or 0.15%, to 1,307.25, for a 2% weekly gain. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 6.92 points, or 0.3%, to 2,306.48, ending the week up 2%.

Investors had modestly upbeat economic data to digest Friday. February industrial production rose 0.7%, in line with expectations, says Action Economics. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index was flat at 86.7. On Monday, the leading economic indicators index for February is expected to drop 0.5%.

In corporate news, General Motors (GM) shares finished lower on a report the automaker is increasing its loss for 2005 by $2 billion and will delay filing its annual report. Ford (F) and DaimlerChrysler (DCX) also fell before the bell.

Lackluster earnings were also in focus. Insurer AIG (AIG) fell after reporting 72% lower fourth-quarter profit, which trailed some analysts' estimates. Bookseller Borders (BGP) was down after the company posted higher fourth quarter profits and sales, on the heels of a solid earnings report from rival Barnes & Noble (BKS).

Elsewhere, tech bellwether Google (GOOG) said it will buy companies in China that have technology or engineering staff capable of strengthening the Internet search giant's services.

On the M&A front, Viacom (VIA) reportedly struck a $900 million deal to sell the films of Paramount Pictures' DreamWorks to Soros Strategic Partners and Dune Entertainmnet II. St. Paul Travelers (STA) was reportedly seeking to buy Zurich Financial, which could create an insurance behemoth to compete with AIG.

In biotech, Genentech (DNA) was higher after raising its earnings growth forecasts for 2006 and through 2010. The company also lifted its target for approvals of new products.

Among other companies in focus, Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) announced separate deals with Audi and Volkswagen, making Sirius the satellite radio provider for each automaker's U.S.-sold vehicles through 2012.

In the energy markets Friday, April West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures closed down 81 cents at $62.77 a barrel. Investors were taking profits ahead of the weekend, says S&P MarketScope.

European markets finished mixed. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 6.2 points, or 0.1%, to 5,999.4. Germany's DAX index fell 15.41 points, or 0.26%, to 5,882.38. In Paris, the CAC 40 index gained 15.07 points, or 0.29%, to 5,141.08.

Asian markets finished higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 243.52 points, or 1.51%, to 16,339.73. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index climbed 72.62 points, or 0.46%, to 15,801.66. Korea's Kospi index added 5.14 points, or 0.38%, to 1,341.12.

Treasury Market

Treasuries fell on profit-taking Friday after a rally Thursday on speculation of fewer interest-rate hikes, says S&P MarketScope. Prices for 10-year Treasury notes closed lower at 98-21/32 with a yield of 4.67%, while 30-year bonds fell to 96-18/32 for a yield of 4.72%.


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