updated 7/25/2005 9:10:50 AM ET 2005-07-25T13:10:50

Wall Street eked out modest gains Friday, finishing the week higher, overcoming tepid earnings from Microsoft Corp. and a fresh surge in crude oil futures.

Major Market Indices

Microsoft’s after-hours earnings report Thursday initially failed to provide the lift needed to extend Wall Street’s recent rally, while the jump in oil prices also stymied trading for much of the session. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

Yet investors’ optimism, buoyed by generally strong earnings throughout the week, asserted itself in late trading and produced modest weekly gains for the major indexes. Maintaining that optimism, however, with stocks near four-year highs, will be difficult in the days ahead.

“The markets are just treading water here,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke LLC. “Despite a generally positive week of earnings, the markets are in for a bit of consolidation or profit-taking over the next few days.”

The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day up 23.41 points, or 0.2 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index gained 6.64 points, or 0.5 percent. The Nasdaq composite index, full of technology stocks, added 1.14 points, or 0.1 percent.

Trading was somewhat lackluster due to a lack of economic news and the typical light volume of a Friday in the summer.

“Considering this is a Friday in July, the market’s a little more constructive than I’d expect it to be,” said Richard Madigan, equity analyst with J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “We’ve had a few earnings issues, but they’re overall pretty good. I think the market wants to consolidate here and maybe then move up some more.”

Dow component Microsoft posted a 37 percent gain in net earnings, but a large part of that came in a tax benefit, and analysts worried that the company’s operating earnings weren’t seeing stronger growth. Microsoft fell 76 cents to $25.68.

Google Inc. tumbled $11.54 to $302.40 despite beating Wall Street’s second-quarter profit forecasts by a wide margin. The Internet search company more than quadrupled its net income and nearly doubled its revenues from a year ago, a stellar quarter by any measure. The stock had been bid up to a record high Thursday in anticipation of an even better performance, however, illustrating investors’ soaring expectations for the company.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. rose $1.53 to $64.38 as the maker of Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers said it would cut 6,000 jobs and sell or close up to 20 manufacturing plants as part of a restructuring plan. The company’s second-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations by a penny per share.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ford Motor Co. could lay off up to 15,000 white-collar workers in North America over the next few years, far more than had been expected. The news sent Ford shares up 8 cents to $10.72.

Struggling appliance maker Maytag Corp. rose 55 cents to $16.20 after posting a profit of 7 cents per share in the second quarter , versus a loss last year, but short of the 10 cents per share analysts had expected. The company said it is still considering whether a takeover bid by rival Whirlpool Corp. is better than one already received by a private equity group. Whirlpool dropped 72 cents to $77.18.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average gave up 0.8 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.4 percent, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.2 percent and Germany’s DAX index rose 0.2 percent.

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