Dow up, Nasdaq finishes lower

By Haitham Haddadin

NEW YORK: Blue-chip stocks eked out slight gains on Friday amid renewed hopes for a recovery, but the Nasdaq finished lower on near record volume as investors booked profits from a rally on news of Oracle Corp’s proposed takeover of software rival PeopleSoft Inc.  

The broad Standard & Poor’s 500 index also ended Friday’s session slightly lower. 

But all three major stock indexes still managed to end the week higher – for the second consecutive week of gains. 

“The most critical piece of news is Oracle’s bid for PeopleSoft,” said Keith Keenan, vice president of institutional trading at brokerage Wall Street Access. 

“That means Oracle is confident about the economy going forward, and they think earnings are going to hold up.” 

Wall Street’s mood got an early lift from a cautious but somewhat soothing outlook from technology bellwether Intel Corp.  

A government report showing US payrolls lost only 17,000 jobs in May, sharply below expectations, also helped investors’ sentiment as the data hinted of improving conditions in the weak labour market.  

That report, however, showed the US unemployment rate rose in May to 6.1%, the highest since July 1994, from April's 6%. But this was in line with Wall Street’s expectations. 

The downturn of the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 plus the Dow’s trimmed sails represented “normal profit-taking ahead of the weekend,” said Tim Heekin, director of trading at Thomas Weisel Partners. 

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average rose 21.49 points or 0.24% to finish at 9,062.79, after hitting a session high of 9,215.88. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.38 points, or 0.24%, to 987.76, after earlier rising above 1,000 for the first time in about a year. The tech-driven Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 18.59 points, or 1.13%, at 1,627.42, based on the latest data. 

For the week, Dow rose 2.4%, the S&P 500 gained 2.51% and the Nasdaq advanced 1.97%. 

Since hitting their 2003 lows on March 11, the Dow has risen about 20%, the S&P 500 has added about 23%, and the Nasdaq has gained about 28%. 

“The correction which has been in the cards for the last number of days has finally gotten under way, with investors using the weekend as an excuse to take some money off the table,” said John Simon of Trade 

Advancing issues almost matched decliners by 1,641 to 1,653 on the New York Stock Exchange. But on Nasdaq, losers outpaced winners by 1,750 to 1,480. Trading was heavy, with more than 1.83 billion shares traded on the Big Board and 2.95 billion changing hands on Nasdaq, a record for the year and the fourth-largest daily volume in Nasdaq’s history. 

Tech stocks got a boost earlier from the soaring shares of PeopleSoft, up almost 18%, after Oracle, the world’s No. 2 software maker, offered to buy PeopleSoft for US$5.1 billion. PeopleSoft shares, the most active on Nasdaq, jumped US$2.71 to US$17.82, while Oracle’s fell 27 cents or 2% to US$13.09. 

Intel ended 8 cents lower at US$21.76, after earlier rising as high as US$22.919 and lifting semiconductor stocks. On Thursday, after the close, Intel narrowed the range of its expected second-quarter revenue and left the midpoint of its previous forecast unchanged, reflecting stronger chip demand. 

Helping the Dow, McDonald’s Corp surged 9% or US$1.78 to US$21.06. The fast-food company said comparable sales at its hamburger restaurants rose 2.2% in May, reversing 14 consecutive months of declines. – Reuters  

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