updated 4/11/2005 8:11:24 AM ET 2005-04-11T12:11:24

Investors locked in profits after a week of gains Friday, sending stocks lower even as oil prices fell for a fifth straight day and two big cable operators reportedly agreed to bid for bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp.

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Wall Street welcomed news that Time Warner Inc. and Comcast Corp. teamed up in an $18 billion bid for Adelphia, in which a combined Time Warner/Adelphia cable company would be spun off into a public company. A private equity firm also announced a $1 billion offer for retailer ShopKo Stores Inc., further bolstering enthusiasm over the year’s healthy merger activity.

But even as crude prices continued their decline, investors shifted their holdings and took profits ahead of first-quarter earnings announcements, which begin in earnest next week, and economic reports that could shed light on inflation.

“Why wouldn’t you take the money off the table, especially after seeing the market go down as low as it did last month?” said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management. “I think some people are taking some profits, but volume is very low, and it’s very quiet, so any move we have here today you have to take with a grain of salt.

The Dow Jones industrial average was off 84.98 points, or 0.8 percent, at Friday’s close, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 9.94 points, or 0.8 percent. The Nasdaq composite index lost 19.44 points, or 1 percent.

Despite Friday’s losses, all three stock market indexes finished the week higher for the first time since March 4, buoyed by the largest weekly decline in oil prices since December. For the week, the Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.7 percent.

Crude oil futures dropped for a fifth straight day Friday, though investors seemed skeptical that oil futures may, at least in the short term, have hit a ceiling. A barrel of light crude settled at $53.32, down 79 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“Oil prices and interest rates continue to dominate,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke LLC. “We may need to see oil fall further before the markets get comfortable, and inflation is still an issue.”

Bonds traded in a narrow range, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling slightly to 4.48 percent from 4.49 percent late Thursday. The dollar fell against most major currencies after remaining higher most of the session, and gold prices fell as well.

Despite soaring energy prices and the stock market’s downturn in March, consumer confidence remained steady for the past month, according to the latest AP-Ipsos consumer confidence index. The index rose narrowly to 84.5 in April, compared to March’s reading of 84.2.

According to newspaper reports, Time Warner and Comcast are offering $12 billion to $13.5 billion in cash for Adelphia, along with stock valued between $4.5 billion and $5.6 billion. Comcast would swap its 21 percent stake in Time Warner for 2 million Adelphia subscribers. Time Warner could then combine the rest of Adelphia with its cable unit for a public offering. Time Warner was up 9 cents at $17.97 on the news, while Comcast lost 21 cents to $33.07.

ShopKo Stores climbed $2.99, or 13 percent, to $26.02 after private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison announced its $1 billion takeover of the regional retailer, which offers general merchandise in its Midwest stores.

The Wall Street Journal reported that former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Vice-Chairman Thomas Coughlin falsified expense reports, leading to his March 25 resignation from the company’s board. The Justice Department is investigating, the newspaper reported. Wal-Mart slipped 33 cents to $48.57.

Consulting firm Accenture Ltd. lost $1.19 to $23.70 after announcing strong revenues and profits for the quarter. The company’s outlook for the current quarter and full year were in line with Wall Street estimates, though one-time benefits fueled some of Accenture’s forecasts.

LaBranche & Co. Inc., whose specialists manage stock trades on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, said its earnings for the quarter would come in below Wall Street forecasts. LaBranche tumbled $1.05, or 10.7 percent, to $8.81.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei average rose 0.5 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.1 percent, France’s CAC-40 finished flat and Germany’s DAX index gained 0.3 percent.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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