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Wall Street closes week at another record

Wall Street rebounded from an early loss Friday to send the Dow Jones industrial average to its 24th record close since the start of October, as investors embraced robust economic data and shrugged off several profit warnings.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Wall Street rebounded from an early loss Friday to send the Dow Jones industrial average to its 24th record close since the start of October, as investors embraced robust economic data and shrugged off several profit warnings.

Stocks held on to their gains despite a warning from chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc., considered one of the bellwether stocks of the tech sector. The market also got a boost from the recent decline in oil prices and a Commerce Department report that retail sales rose in December at their strongest pace in five months — an indication that holiday sales might have turned out better than expected despite downbeat reports earlier this month from many retailers.

The retail sales report was another sign that the economy remains healthy, and could persuade central bankers to keep interest rates where they are. Stock and bond investors have been hoping the Fed might lower rates in the near future.

Some of Friday’s fluctuations were likely due to investors adjusting their positions ahead of a three-day weekend, with the markets closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“You’ve had a pretty good week, and people always tend to even up positions on a Friday — especially before a holiday,” said Alexander Paris, an economist and market analyst for Chicago-based Barrington Research.

The Dow Jones industrial average finished the session up 41.10 points, or 0.33 percent. Friday marked the index’s 24th record close since the start of October. Despite the gains, the Dow didn’t surpass its trading high of 12,580.35 set Jan. 3.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index finished up 6.91 points, or 0.49 percent, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 17.97 points, or 0.72 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite both closed at fresh six-year highs.

For the week, stocks advanced modestly and, as a result, managed to push the indexes into positive territory for the New Year. The Dow was up 1.27 percent, while the S&P 500 advanced 1.49 percent and the Nasdaq picked up 2.82 percent.

The bond market, which has been pricing in the potential of a rate cut sometime with the first half of the year, was rattled by the economic reports Friday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.78 percent — its highest level since October — from 4.74 percent late Thursday.

“The mood isn’t negative,” said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management, a subsidiary of Mellon Financial Corp. “You take the economic news as it comes. Things are changing so rapidly, and there’s so much information right now, but you react and then look ahead. That’s what the market is doing.”

Oil prices, which touched fresh 19-month lows during the session, traded erratically as traders weighed speculation that OPEC might consider an emergency meeting to cut production. A barrel of light, sweet crude settled up $1.11 at $52.99 on the New York Mercantile Exchange; despite the advance, oil is still down 13 percent since the start of the year.

Investors pushed oil stocks higher on belief a production cut could help anchor profits for the sector. ConocoPhillips rose $2.01, or 3.3 percent, to $63.83. Exxon Mobil Corp. picked up $1.68, rising to $72.66.

Murphy Oil Corp. rose 36 cents to $46.61 as investors shrugged off a warning from the oil and gas refiner warned fourth-quarter profit will come below expectations.

Technology stocks, which have been among the market’s biggest gainers so far this year, extended their advance despite a warning from AMD that fourth-quarter results will be lower than expected. AMD plunged $1.92, or 9.5 percent, to $18.26.

Meanwhile, business software maker SAP AG’s warning that quarterly profit and revenue would fall short of expectations caused a round of analyst downgrades. However, the stock was able to stay in positive territory, rising $1.52, or 3.1 percent, to $50.02.

Apple Inc. backed off an all-time high reached earlier in the week after it unveiled plans to roll out its iPhone later this year. A trademark lawsuit filed by Cisco Systems Inc. pushed Apple shares lower by $1.18 to $94.62.

Cisco shares rose 23 cents to $28.92.

Cablevision Systems Corp. fell after the family that founded the company raised its buyout bid in what they called the “best and final offer.” However, investors sent the stock down $1.21, or 4.1 percent, to $28.39 as it appeared a more lucrative offer is now unlikely.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed up 1.30 percent. At the close, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.14 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 0.27 percent and France’s CAC-40 added 0.14 percent.