Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dow, S&P turn in best week since March

Friday September 21, 10:55 pm ET
By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday after robust results from software maker Oracle Corp (NasdaqGS:ORCL - News) brightened the outlook for technology, helping the Dow and S&P turn in their best weekly performance since March.

Building on the euphoria that followed the Federal Reserve's aggressive interest-rate cut on Tuesday, investors snapped up bank and other rate-sensitive stocks, betting that lower borrowing costs will keep the economy on track.

Shares of Oracle, which is heavily dependent on business spending, jumped 4.4 percent to $21.97, a day after after the world's third-largest software maker's results topped Wall Street's expectations.

"We had earnings numbers out of Oracle, which were very positive, and that's kind of leading the rally in technology. The market's sensitive to earnings numbers, given that the economy has been slowing," said Owen Fitzpatrick, head of the U.S. equity group at Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average (DJI:^DJI - News) rose 53.49 points, or 0.39 percent, to end at 13,820.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (^SPX - News) gained 7.00 points, or 0.46 percent, to finish at 1,525.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index (Nasdaq:^IXIC - News) added 16.93 points, or 0.64 percent, to close at 2,671.22.

For the week, the Dow advanced 2.8 percent, while the S&P 500 also gained 2.8 percent and the Nasdaq rose 2.7 percent.

The stock market's rally followed the Fed's decision on Tuesday, when it slashed its benchmark federal funds rate and the discount rate by half a percentage point to cushion the economy from ailing credit markets. The fed funds rate is the rate charged on overnight bank loans, while the discount rate is the rate the Fed charges for direct loans to banks.


Strong results from Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE - News), also late Thursday, pushed shares of the the world's largest athletic shoe and apparel maker up on Friday to a lifetime high of $60.99, but the stock ended down 1.8 percent at $57.26.

Late in the session, audio equipment maker Harman International Industries (NYSE:HAR - News) said private equity firms that planned to buy the company told Harman they no longer intended to complete the $8 billion deal. Its shares sank 24.3 percent to end at $85, topping the NYSE's list of biggest percentage losers. It extended losses to $83 in after-hours trading.

A number of big investment banks reported results that were mixed this week, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS - News), which posted third-quarter earnings on Thursday that beat Wall Street's estimates. The stock gained 3.2 percent to $209.98 on Friday.

The third-quarter profit reporting period will begin in earnest in early October.


Friday also marked the expiration of equity derivative contracts in the quarterly event known as "quadruple witching," which analysts said could have added to some of the positive momentum.

Trading was heavy on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 2.08 billion shares changing hands, above last year's estimated daily average of 1.84 billion. On Nasdaq, about 2.37 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 2.02 billion. Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of about 5 to 3 on the NYSE and by nearly 8 to 7 on Nasdaq.

Without Friday's witching expiration, volume might have been lighter than average as many players took the day off or left the office early in observation of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.

Shares of Texas Instruments Inc (NYSE:TXN - News) advanced 2.4 percent to $36.62 after it said its board had approved an additional $5 billion stock buyback, and the company plans to raise its cash dividend by 25 percent.

Gains in energy shares also helped the S&P 500 index after oil's surge above $84 a barrel late on Thursday. Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM - News) was up 0.2 percent at $92.31.

November crude oil prices fell 16 cents to settle at $81.62 a barrel. The October U.S. crude oil contract expired on Thursday after it hit a record for the seventh straight session at $84.10.

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