Wall Street rose moderately Friday, carving out its fourth straight weekly gain amid a fresh round of corporate takeover news and employment figures that largely met expectations.
Reports that Microsoft Corp. has renewed talks to acquire or invest in Yahoo Inc. helped buoy investor sentiment Friday as did word that Reuters Group PLC received a preliminary takeover offer. There is speculation that Thomson Corp., the financial data provider, is the likely suitor for the British news and information company.
Beyond the buyout news, which has figured prominently in shaping Wall Street’s largely upbeat mood in recent months, economic figures offered some nuggets for both bullish and bearish investors. The Labor Department said Friday the nation’s jobless rate rose to 4.5 percent in April as expected; in the prior month, the rate stood at a five-year low of 4.4 percent.
But employers also added the fewest new jobs in more than two years. Wage growth, though, remained in check. While Wall Street doesn’t want consumers to feel less secure in their jobs and perhaps curb their spending, a spike in wages amid a tight labor market could stir concerns about inflation.
“The economic data suggest that the economy is not tanking and inflation is not accelerating and that the Fed is not going to upset the apple cart,” said Alan Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price, referring to the Federal Reserve.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.24, or 0.18 percent, to 13,264.62. The Dow reached a trading high of 13,284.53, which topped its previous record of 13,256.33 set Wednesday.
The blue chip index has set 19 record closes since the start of the year and 41 since the beginning of October. The Dow’s move higher in 23 of the last 26 sessions marks the longest streak of advances for the blue chips since 1955.
Broader stock indicators also moved higher Friday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 3.23, or 0.21 percent, to 1,505.62. On Thursday, the S&P 500 moved above the 1,500 mark for the first time in nearly seven years, and it rise as high as 1,510.34 on Friday. The return to 1,500 puts the closing high of 1,527.46 — reached March 24, 2000 — within investors’ sights.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 6.69, or 0.26 percent, to 2,572.15; while the Nasdaq has risen alongside the Dow and the S&P in recent sessions, it remains about halfway toward its March 2000 high.
Friday’s tepid moves in stocks — perhaps including some end-of-the-week profit taking — nonetheless left the major indexes on track to turn in another week of prodigious gains. The Dow is up nearly 1 percent for the week after crossing 13,200 for the first time Wednesday. It gained 7.7 percent in the previous 25 sessions.
With acquisitive investors apparently circling media and information properties Yahoo and Reuters, interest in such companies could be growing. Word of the possible combinations comes three days after News Corp., run by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, offered to acquire Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. for $5 billion. Dow Jones rose 12 cents to $55.89 Friday as the likelihood of a deal remained unclear. News Corp. climbed 12 cents to $23.56.
A broader spate of merger and acquisition activity seen recently has helped push stocks higher because investors generally regard such deals as bullish bets by companies on the health of the economy.
Friday’s takeover news sent the targeted companies higher. Yahoo rose $4.80, or 17 percent, to $32.97, while Reuters rose $15.08, or 25.6 percent, to $74. Investors, who tend to distance themselves from companies doing the acquiring, sent Thomson down 28 cents to $43.45 and Microsoft down 48 cents to $30.49.
Along with takeovers, earnings reports continue to draw attention on Wall Street. Better-than-expected profits have served as a catalyst for pushing stocks to record levels in recent months. Forest products company Weyerhaeuser Co. jumped $4.89, or 6.3 percent, to $83.05 after reporting it swung to a profit from a loss in the first quarter largely because of a combination of its fine-paper business with another paper maker.
Not all quarterly reports pleased investors, however. Eastman Kodak Co. fell $1.02, or 3.9 percent, to $24.95, after the company’s first-quarter loss narrowed but still fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. The company has been trying to move beyond a shrinking film business and further into digital products.
Overseas, stock markets in much of Asia, including Japan and Hong Kong, were closed for holidays. Britain’s FTSE 100 finished up 1.01 percent, Germany’s DAX index advanced 0.54 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 1.08 percent.