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Technology sector buoys Wall Street

A surge in technology shares lifted stocks moderately higher Tuesday, as palmOne Inc.’s strong earnings report injected a bit of life into what has been a stagnant market.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A surge in technology shares lifted stocks moderately higher Tuesday, as palmOne Inc.’s strong earnings report injected a bit of life into what has been a stagnant market.

The rally helped investors put aside some of their interest rate concerns. But while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley were rewarded for posting major gains in revenue and soundly beating Wall Street expectations, the rest of the interest rate sensitive financial sector was largely ignored.

Investors continued to wonder whether the Federal Reserve will raise the benchmark rate by a quarter percentage point or a half point when its Open Market Committee meets next week. That kept the markets mixed through most of the session before the tech rally caught on.

“If you look at the sectors, only technology seems to be breaking out to the upside,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke LLC. “Aside from tech, you’re seeing light buying by investors, but it’s not aggressive. There’s no terrific surge in volume. There’s not a lot of strength behind this, but it’s better than nothing.”

At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 23.60 points, or 0.2 percent, at 10,395.07, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up 4.11 points, or 0.4 percent, at 1,134.41. The technology-rich Nasdaq composite index rose 19.77 points, or 1 percent, to 1,994.15.

Other than a handful of earnings reports, once again there was very little market-moving news in advance of the Fed meeting, and analysts expected the markets to remain within a trading range through the week.

“I think we’re having the summer doldrums a little early this year,” said Neil Massa, a trader at John Hancock Funds. “After the 30th, once the Fed moves and the handover in Iraq takes place, we’ll be able to pick a direction. Until then, there’s just nothing going on.”

While quarterly earnings were strong at both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, some analysts and investors worried that a slow summer and wariness on the part of individual investors would impact the brokerage houses’ investment businesses, especially if interest rates rise faster than expected.

Both companies actually were down for much of Tuesday’s session before latching on to the late rally to post strong gains.

Goldman Sachs gained $1.81 to $90.60 after it announced a 71 percent jump in quarterly earnings, beating Wall Street estimates by an impressive 36 cents per share.

Morgan Stanley doubled its second-quarter earnings from a year ago, beating expectations by 11 cents per share before a one-time $109 million charge related to its aircraft financing business. The brokerage firm was up 90 cents at $52.15.

In the technology sector, palmOne surged $7.90, or 37 percent, to $29.36 after reporting earnings that surpassed analysts’ estimates by 14 cents per share, thanks to strong demand for its handheld computing devices. That triggered buying in other technology stocks, particularly semiconductors. Intel Corp. rose 52 cents to $28.04, while rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. climbed 57 cents to $14.67.

Supermarket chain Kroger Co. missed Wall Street expectations by a penny, blaming the grocery workers’ strike in southern California for losses totaling 10 cents per share. Kroger gained 47 cents to $17.84 on a stronger outlook.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., already hurt by lower-than-expected June sales, slumped 87 cents to $54.06 as a federal judge approved class-action status for a sex-discrimination lawsuit against the company. The class could involve up to 1.6 million current and former female employees, making it the largest civil rights case in U.S. history.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 5 to 4 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was light. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.15 points, or 0.6 percent, to 571.89.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average slipped 0.2 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed down 0.8 percent, France’s CAC-40 fell 1.1 percent for the session and Germany’s DAX index lost 1.5 percent in late trading.