Back to normal.
All the indexes were broadly higher with traders pointing to a flurry of roseate inflation reports. The
Producer Price Index
, which measures wholesale prices, fell 0.4% for February -- the biggest drop in more than two years. Economists had been expecting the indicator to be unchanged.
Traders figure the good news means the
, which meets later this month to talk about interest rates, will leave things alone. Low rates mean companies can borrow more cheaply, which in turn beefs up their bottom lines.
As happy traders shuffled out of their offices for a quick slice of Friday pizza, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up more than 50 points and above 6930.
But economists were less exuberant than stock traders. Fred Sturm, chief economist at
in Chicago, says the Fed knows that by the time inflation starts to show up in official indexes, they'll already have a problem on their hands. So while the Fed is off the hook on March 25, Sturm believes a pre-emptive rate hike is on the way.
"Skepticism is warranted," Sturm says. "But there's a peculiar whistling-past -the-graveyard-attitude in the stock market."
Tech shares bucked the positive trend, even as analysts raised ratings on some of the most recognized names.
fell 1 5/8 to 38 5/8 and
fell 2 7/8 to 60 1/4 after
upgraded the pair. Networker
fell 1 1/4 to 22 3/4.
slipped 2 1/8 to 26 5/8, while
dropped 1 1/2, 50 1/2.
And in keeping with the lunch-time theme, a little burger news.
's British parent,
, has fired the burger chain's chief executive just two weeks after
launched a price-cutting campaign.
After two years wearing the crown, Robert Lowes, will be replaced by Dennis Malamatinas, a
Procter & Gamble
Burger King has announced that it does not plan to enter a price war with its chief rival, McDonald's. And Grand Met has given no indication the No. 2 burger chain will change its policy under new leadership.
Have it your way.
By Andrew Morse