Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Mixed


The Dow average is finally up for the year. Consumer sentiment rises

Stocks finished the week mixed as investors shifted funds into defensive issues, including consumer staples and pharmaceuticals, and out of techs and energy names. A 28-point gain in the Dow Jones Industrial average finally drove the blue-chip index into the black for the year.

In economic news, U.S. consumer sentiment rose to 69.0 in June for the preliminary reading on the University of Michigan survey, from 68.7 in May. U.S. import prices rose 1.3% in May after a revised 1.1% increase in April (from 1.6%), with May export prices up 0.6% following a revised 0.4% increase in April (was 0.5%). This is a third straight monthly increase in import prices after posting declines since last August.

On Friday, the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average rose 28.34 points, or 0.32%, to 8,799.26. The broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index edged up 1.32 points, or 0.14%, to 946.21. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 3.57 points, or 0.19%, to 1,858.80.

The Nasdaq composite index is leading the charge higher, with a gain of almost 18% for the year. The S&P 500 is up 4.8% for the year.

July WTI crude oil futures were down $0.50 to $72.18 a barrel. Eurozone April industrial production dropped 1.9% month-to-month, weaker than expected. The data calls into question what seemed to be widely-held views that an economic recovery was under way.

August gold futures plunged, as a rise in the dollar index diminished gold's appeal as an alternative investment to currency. Futures were down $20.80 to $941.20 an ounce.

The 10-year notes were up 18/32 to 94-18/32 for yield of 3.794%. Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosana said, ahead of this weekend's G8 meeting, Japan's confidence in U.S. debt is "unshakable" and that the greenback's global status is safe, outweighing a WSJ report that Federal Reserve officials are unlikely to significantly boost purchases of U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities when they meet in late June, reports S&P MarketScope.

Shares of Bank of America (BAC) and other financials rose Friday, even though there was mixed news in the sector. The Wall Street Journal reported that big banks are expected to start repaying government bailout funds next Wednesday.

Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG) said Friday that it will sell as much as $750 million of common stock and will accept $3.4 billion in TARP funds. Hartford said it will use the proceeds from the common stock offering for general corporate purposes, including the possible repurchase of outstanding debt.

BlackRock (BLK) announced it has executed a purchase agreement to acquire Barclays Global Investors (BGI), including its ETF platform, iShares, from Barclays (BCS). Under the terms of deal, BLK would acquire BGI in exchange for 37.8 million BLK common shares and $6.6 billion of cash. It says shares will represent a 4.9% voting interest, aggregate 19.9% economic interest in combined firm, which will be renamed BlackRock Global Investors.

National Semiconductor (NSM) shares fell after the company posted a narrower-than-expected loss for its fiscal fourth quarter, and issued upside guidance for its fiscal first quarter after the company said it has seen a pick up in orders. National Semiconductor posted a loss of $0.28 per share in its fiscal fourth quarter, $0.10 better than the First Call consensus forecast. The net loss of $64 million includes a pre-tax restructuring charge of $116 million primarily related to severance and asset impairments. Revenues fell 39.2% year-over-year to $280.8 million, but beat the consensus estimate of $273.4 million. Goldman Sachs analyst James Schneider kept a sell opinion on the stock as he continues to have doubts regarding the company's ability to capitalize on higher revenues in this industry up-cycle.

Rambus (RMBS) reached a tentative settlement with the European Commission to resolve the pending case against the company. Under the proposed resolution, the Commission would make no finding of liability relative to JEDEC-related charges, and no fine would be assessed against RMBS. Also, RMBS would commit to offer licenses with maximum royalty rates for certain memory types and memory controllers on a forward-going basis.

Among other stocks in the news Friday, Hoku Scientific (HOKU) said, due to challenges in the credit and equity markets, securing certain sources of funding has proven challenging. It also said downward pressure on PV industry and spot market price of polysilicon has affected demand for contract-based polysilicon sales. Because of difficulties in raising capital, the company said that if it doesn't receive any such additional financing, it may not have sufficient funds to complete construction of its polysilicon plant, or continue as a going concern for next 12 months.

Yahoo (YHOO) announced that Tim Morse has been appointed CFO. Morse was previously CFO at Altera (ALTR).


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