Updated from 4:07 p.m. EDT
Stocks floated to another winning session Thursday, as
upbeat guidance, optimism about March retail sales and falling oil offset a surprise hit to
Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 60.30 points, or 0.58%, to 10,546.32, while the
gained 7.07 points, or 0.60%, to 1191.14. Both indices notched their fourth consecutive day of gains. The
, which fell a fraction Wednesday, rose 19.65 points, or 0.98%, to 2018.79.
Heading into trading Friday, the Nasdaq is up 1.71% for the week, while the Dow is up 1.36% and the S&P 500 has gained 1.55%.
"We're still stuck in this trading range, although with some support," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial Services. "As long as we stay above those levels, we're working off the oversold conditions. It will be interesting to see how it will resolve itself, especially without any more economic data this week."
Trading volume on the
New York Stock Exchange
was 1.88 billion shares, with advancers beating decliners by a 5-to-3 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq was 1.68 billion shares, with advancers outpacing decliners 3 to 2.
In other markets, the 10-year Treasury bond was down 14/32 in price to yield 4.48%, having been around 4.40% most of the day, while the dollar fell against the yen and euro.
"The 10-year treasury has a technical support level of 4.42%," said John Canavan, a market analyst with Stone & McCarthy Research Associates. "Early this afternoon, we saw a sharp drop in oil prices that helped U.S. equities, both of which drove Treasuries back down in price, forcing yields up. Failure to hold that technical level of 4.42% forced more selling of the bonds."
Right before the opening bell, Pfizer said it agreed to pull its Bextra painkiller from the market at the FDA's urging. The drug, which is part of the Cox-2 inhibitor class that also includes
Vioxx and Pfizer's Celebrex, has been linked to cardiovascular problems in some patients. Pfizer gained 4 cents, or 0.1%, to $26.90, having been down 5% early in the session.
Oil plummeted 3% Thursday, with the May crude contract finishing down $1.74 to $54.11 a barrel in Nymex floor trading. On Tuesday, oil dipped 19 cents after the Energy Department reported its sixth consecutive weekly increase in U.S. crude stocks.
Despite the fall in crude, higher oil stocks Thursday included
, which was up 73 cents, or 1.2%, to $61.47, and
, which added 39 cents, or 0.6%, to $63.65. After an upgrade by brokerage A.G. Edwards,
was up 73 cents, or 1.3%, to close at $57.96.
"Some of the bellwethers were firmer today," said Jay Suskind, head of institutional equity trading at Ryan Beck & Co. "You had a couple of names up strong, including Dell, and it was strong enough to offset Pfizer and Wal-Mart news. A spike down in oil gets the markets some more support. It's given the market a decent tone. The market would like to escape with an up week, with tomorrow just oil and interest rates in the headlines."
In one of few economic reports of the week, the Labor Department said that initial jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 334,000 in the week ended April 2, compared with economists' projections of a decline to 330,000. The previous week's figure was revised higher to 353,000 from 350,000. The four-week moving average was unchanged at 336,500.
Also, the Commerce Department said wholesale inventories for February increased 0.6%, less than economists' expectations of a 0.7% increase after a revised 1% increase the previous month.
Dell gained almost 1% Thursday after calming nerves in the technology sector by affirming its first-quarter earnings and sales estimates of 37 cents a share and $13.4 billion. The hardware giant also said it was doubling its stock buyback plans in the second quarter and reiterated a long-term annual sales goal of $80 billion. Dell was up 35 cents, or 0.9%, to finish at $38.50.
kicked off the earnings torrent by reporting a 27% drop in year-over-year profits but posting operating net that beat estimates by a penny a share. Sales rose 13% from a year ago to $6.29 billion, about $50 million above estimates. Shares of Alcoa added $1.49, or 5%, to $31.47.
U.S. retail chains reported sales results for March on Thursday. The biggest,
, said same-store sales rose 4.3% in March from a year earlier, slightly better than the 4.2% consensus. The discounter forecast first-quarter earnings at the low end of its 56 cents to 58 cents a share estimate. Analysts were expecting 57 cents a share. Wal-Mart fell 60 cents, or 1.2%, to $48.90.
rose after the company said March same-store sales rose 8.2% over year-ago levels, while total sales for the month increased by 14% to $4.41 billion. The retail giant also said earnings for the quarter ending April would meet or exceed expectations. Target gained 77 cents, or 1.5%, to $50.74.
Other notable retailers that beat estimates in March include
, which said same-store sales rose 7.8% from a year ago;
American Eagle Outfitters
, which said same-store sales rose 29.2%; and
, which said same-store sales rose 30.6%.
Chain stores that issued disappointing comps include
Pier 1 Imports
, which said-same store sales fell 18.2% in March from a year ago;
, which said same-store sales fell 7%; and
Children's Place Retail Stores
, which said same-store sales rose only 10% from a year ago, short of an expected 16.8% gain.
reported a 6% jump in March same-store sales compared with a year ago. The result was at the high end of the company's own 3% to 7% long-term growth target but slightly below the Wall Street consensus. Starbucks fell $1.63, or 3.1%, to $50.50.
CFO John Connors ended a 16-year career last week, the company disclosed in a filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
. Connors' departure was announced in early January. At the time, the company did not give a firm departure date but said he would assist with the transition. At this point, Microsoft does not have an official replacement but is considering both internal and external candidates. Microsoft rose 43 cents, or 1.7%, to close at $25.10.
unveiled an enchanced voice-over-Internet protocol, or VOIP, phone service through America Online. The service will offer better pricing than telephone services, as well as voice and online messaging features. Shares of Time Warner gained 32 cents, or 1.8%, to $17.88.
Bed Bath & Beyond
said fourth-quarter earnings rose to $181.0 million, or 59 cents a share, from $144.2 million, or 47 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts' expectations were for earnings of 55 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call. Revenue rose 13% year over year to $1.5 billion, while same-store sales increased by 5.1%. Shares jumped $4.06, or 11%, to $40.80.
said it now expects earnings from continuing operations for the first quarter of 24 cents to 25 cents a share, excluding a 20-cent-per-share charge from the spin-off the
mortgage company. The Thomson First Call average consensus is for a profit of 22 cents a share for the quarter. Cendant said it will repatriate $555 million of foreign profit, which will be used for domestic investment purposes. The company also gave guidance for 2005 and 2006 using a new reporting structure. Cendant added 23 cents, or 1.1%, to $20.95.
In brokerage action, Smith Barney downgraded two carmakers, cutting
to sell from hold and
to hold from buy. The brokerage cut GM ahead of a restructuring plan that could cost the company $4 billion. Ford was cut, as Smith Barney feels it will be unable to avoid the ripple effect of GM's troubles. GM shrugged off the downgrade and closed up 67 cents, or 2.2%, to $30.53; Ford was added 19 cents, or 1.7%, to $11.30.
Overseas markets were mostly higher, with London's FTSE 100 up 0.6% to 4977 and Germany's Xetra DAX adding 0.2% to 4389. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.1% overnight to 11,811, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3% to 13,602.