GM Rally Lifts Blue Chips

The Dow closes at a six-year high, but tech shares ease.
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Updated from 4:07 p.m. EDT

Blue chips jumped Thursday, as a rally in shares of

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

led the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

to its best close in six years. Tech stocks ended lower.

The Dow rose 64.12 points, or 0.57%, to 11,342.89. Earlier, the blue-chip proxy rose as much as 100 points, as investors bid up GM more than 10% after a mixed earnings report.

The

S&P 500

added 1.53 points, or 0.12%, to 1311.46. Meanwhile, the

Nasdaq

, torpedoed by selling in

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

and

Juniper

(JNPR) - Get Report

, lost 8.33 points, or 0.35%, to 2362.55.

"We continue to see a battle going on between positive earnings and rising energy prices and bond yields," said Michael Sheldon, chief market analyst with Spencer Clarke LLC. "There's significant profit-taking in metal stocks and a modest pullback in energy stocks. Overall, there's no dramatic trend with technology weaker."

About 1.78 billion shares traded on the

New York Stock Exchange

, with decliners beating advancers by a 9-to-8 margin. Trading volume on the Nasdaq was 2.17 billion shares, with decliners outpacing advancers 8 to 7.

General Motors posted a first-quarter loss of $323 million, or 57 cents a share, narrowing sharply from a year ago. The company sold more cars and trucks worldwide, although its struggling North American unit posted a $946 million loss and saw unit volume decline. GM jumped by $2.07, or 10.1% to $22.64.

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

had adjusted earnings of 78 cents a share on a 1% rise in revenue to $5.41 billion. Analysts were forecasting 72 cents and sales of $5.47 billion. Merck added 60 cents, or 1.7%, to $35.

Things were less rosy in the tech sector after

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

reported lower sales and earnings for its first quarter and took an ax to its full-year revenue estimate.

Reflecting competition from

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

and ebbing PC demand, Intel now sees 2006 revenue falling by 3% from 2005, to $38.8 billion. The chipmaker had previously forecast a 6% to 9% gain. Intel's shares, which are down 30% over the last 10 months, eased Thursday, and lost 0.6% to finish at $19.45.

To view Kara Wetzel's video take on today's market, click here

.

Shares of eBay slipped despite a solid first quarter in which adjusted earnings rose 24% from a year ago to 24 cents a share, matching estimates. Sales rose 35% to $1.39 billion, also matching estimates.

Problems surfaced with eBay's guidance, however. For the second quarter, the online auction house expects to earn 22 cents or 23 cents a share on sales of $1.37 billion to $1.42 billion. Analysts were looking for 24 cents a share on $1.42 billion. The deficit was similar in the company's full-year estimate, and shares closed down 8.9% to $36.77.

Juniper swooned 10.1% in heavy volume after saying first-quarter earnings were roughly unchanged at $75.8 million, or 13 cents a share, and guiding to flat sequential revenue in the current period. The shares lost $2.05 to $18.25.

The 10-year Treasury bond was down 4/32 in price to yield 5.04%. The dollar rose against the yen and euro, rebounding from a seven-month low.

Oil eased from record highs after closing above $72 for the first time ever on Wednesday amid concerns about possible economic sanctions against Iran and the level of U.S. fuel inventories. The current session is the last for the May futures contract. Crude futures finished down 22 cents to close at $71.95 a barrel in Nymex floor trading.

Gold and silver, both of which closed Wednesday at their highest prices in more than two decades, fell Thursday. The Comex gold contract closed down $12.90 to $623.10 an ounce, while silver futures eased $2 to end the session at $12.52 an ounce.

The Amex Gold Bugs index dropped 6.7% and both the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index and the Amex Oil index both fell 0.9%. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Transportation index ran up 1.3%, the NYSE Healthcare index added 0.6%, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Sector index rose 0.5%.

"We shouldn't be surprised that resources and oil saw profit-taking," said Barry Hyman, equity market strategist with Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum. "There was such a strong run for the last month. The good news is that while that occurred, there was rotation into other sectors. Money isn't leaving the market and earnings remain satisfactory. We may still see more rotation."

The stock market rallied Tuesday as traders got two indications that the

Fed's

22-month rate-tightening campaign might finally be near an end. First, Janet Yellen, the president of the San Francisco Fed, said economic growth would probably slow from the first-quarter's rapid clip. Then, minutes from the last FOMC meeting showed that some U.S. central bankers appear to be a bit worried about raising short-term rates too high.

However, on Wednesday, Yellen gave a televised interview in which she reminded the markets that for the Fed to pause, the economic data must show that 15 consecutive rate hikes have slowed growth enough to stave off inflation.

Nevertheless, it was earnings that dominated the corporate news docket Thursday.

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

said its first-quarter profit rose to about 30 cents a share, while revenue jumped 28% to $11.7 billion. Both numbers were well ahead of analysts' forecasts. The stock rose $1.07, or 4.9%, to $22.81.

BellSouth's

(BLS)

first-quarter earnings were $784 million, or 43 cents a share, down 26% from last year. Revenue increased 1.6% to $5.17 billion from a year ago. Excluding one-time items, the company said it had adjusted earnings of 54 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call consensus by a penny. BellSouth gave up 35 cents, or 1.1%, to close at $32.66.

Altria

(MO) - Get Report

reported first-quarter net income of $3.48 billion, or $1.65 a share, up from $2.60 billion, or $1.25 a share, a year earlier. The latest results included a gain of 46 cents a share. Altria also reaffirmed its 2006 forecast. Shares rose $1.08, or 1.6%, to $70.04.

UPS

(UPS) - Get Report

posted first-quarter earnings of $975 million, or 89 cents a share, up from $882 million, or 78 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue jumped 16.5% to $11.52 billion. Analysts were calling for earnings of 88 cents a share on sales of $11.15 billion. The stock was off 47 cents, or 0.6%, finishing at $82.05.

Energy company

XTO

(XTO)

said it had first-quarter earnings of $467 million, or $1.26 a share, up from $166 million, or 47 cents a share, last year. Excluding some items, earnings rose to $1.22 a share, a penny shy of the average forecast. Shares lost 99 cents, or 2.1%, to $47.

German software maker

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

said first-quarter earnings rose 11% to $348 million, slightly below estimates, while software license sales gained 22%. The company affirmed its full-year revenue guidance. The stock was lower by $1.06, or 1.9%, to $55.81.

The picture was brighter at

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

, whose second-quarter profit rose 41% to $410 million, or 47 cents a share, beating estimates by 3 cents. At $4.36 billion, however, sales were about $170 million light. Apple gained $1.98, or 3%, to $67.63.

Another hardware giant,

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

, had a solid report. Adjusted earnings of 41 cents a share and sales of $1.83 billion both topped estimates. The company guided its second quarter in line. Qualcomm lost 66 cents, or 1.3%, to $51.84.

Other earnings after the bell Thursday included a report from

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

. The Internet company posted a first-quarter profit of $592 million, or $1.95 a share, up 60% from last year. Sales jumped 92% from a year ago to $1.53 billion. Results beat the Thomson First Call consensus of $1.75 a share on sales of $1.47 billion. Google finished the session up $4.50, or 1.1%, to $415 and was trading up 5% in the after-hours session.

On the economic front, the Labor Department said that initial jobless claims for the week ended April 15 fell 10,000 to 303,000. The four-week moving average fell 2,250 to 305,250.

Also on the docket were the leading indicators for March, which slipped 0.1%. The leading indictors were expected to be flat after a revised 0.5% decline in February.

The Philadelphia Fed said the April reading of its manufacturing report rose to 13.2. The index was expected to increase to 14.3 from 12.3 in March.

Away from earnings,

PortalPlayer

(PLAY) - Get Report

plummeted 41.9% after the company said its chip product PP5021 would not be used by Apple in its midrange and high-end flash memory iPods. Shares dropped $9.46 to $13.13.

Overseas markets were mostly higher Thursday, with London's FTSE up 0.2% to 6100 and Germany's Xetra DAX adding 0.6% to 6032. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.2% overnight to 17,318, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.7% to 16,944.