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Apple’s stock split gives Wall Street a lift

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Dow Jones industrial average moved into positive territory for the year on Friday as investors piled back into the market. Wall Street finished the week mixed, however, as tech stocks lagged the Dow components.

A flood of buy orders from institutional traders, impressed with the market’s ability to hold on to last week’s gains, pushed stocks higher. Analysts said the market has nearly recovered from January’s selloff, but remain split on whether the market has the potential to continue its run upward.

“I admit, the market’s acting better than I thought it would,” said Ken Tower, chief market strategist for Schwab’s CyberTrader. “The market was quite oversold over the past few days, and I think we’re bouncing off of that. It remains to be seen, however, whether this can be maintained.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.40, or 0.43 percent, to 10,796.01, after gaining 85.50 on Thursday. It was the Dow’s best showing since Dec. 30.

Broader stock indicators also moved higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose up 8.29, or 0.69 percent, at 1,205.30, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 23.56, or 1.15 percent, to 2,076.66. Both remained down for the year, however.

Stocks experienced a volatile week as investors abandoned riskier technology shares and small-cap stock, leaning instead toward large-caps and blue chips. A relative dearth of economic data added to Wall Street’s uncertainty. For the week, the Dow rose 0.75 percent and the S&P climbed 0.19 percent, while the Nasdaq fell 0.48 percent.

While earnings have been generally positive, investors have been quick to sell off stocks that fail to meet Wall Street’s forecasts. That selling has overshadowed some of the market’s fundamental strengths, according to Brian Belski, market strategist at Piper Jaffray.

“The current fundamental conditions, and leading conditions going forward, are really forcing portfolio managers to put money to work,” Belski said. “I think the market is set up to exceed expectations for a while.”

Dell beat analysts’ profit estimates by a penny per share, but its record quarterly sales were still lower than expected, and investors were further disappointed by a tepid outlook for the current quarter. Dell was down $1.58 to $39.99.

Pixar Animation Studios Inc. dropped $2.82 to $87.06 despite beating Wall Street’s profit estimates by 14 cents per share. Earnings fell 34 percent from a year ago, when Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” was first sold on DVD.

Apple Computer Inc.’s board approved a 2-for-1 stock split for shareholders of record on Feb. 18, with the split going into effect on Feb. 28. The stock has soared 237 percent since its low of $21.89 on Feb. 23, 2004, as the company’s popular iPod music player spurred record sales. Apple climbed $2.85 to $81.21.

High-end gadget retailer Sharper Image Corp. tumbled $1.84, or 10.9 percent, to $15.10 after the company said its earnings for 2005 would be sharply lower than Wall Street expects, and that its loss for the current quarter would likewise be worse than forecast.

Dow component Pfizer Inc. reportedly plans to slash $2 billion in costs, though widespread layoffs are not expected. The drug maker plans to reorganize its sales force as well, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Pfizer rose 10 cents to $25.15.

Verizon Communications Inc. rose 27 cents to $36.31 after the Journal reported that the Dow component’s acquisition talks with MCI Corp. could be wrapped up in a few days. The deal is said to match Qwest Communications International Inc.’s $6.3 billion bid. MCI added 29 cents to $20.75, while Qwest slipped a penny to $4.15.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by nearly 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.56 billion shares, compared to 1.51 billion on Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 7.95, or 1.27 percent, at 634.76.

Overseas, Japan’s financial markets were closed for the National Foundation Day, a public holiday.  In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.88 percent, France’s CAC-40 gained 1.17 percent for the session, and Germany’s DAX index climbed 1.05 percent in late trading.