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Major Averages Finish Strong

The Dow adds 0.7%, while the Nasdaq jumps 0.9%.

Updated from 4:04 p.m. EDT

A late run lifted stocks to solid gains Friday as Wall Street welcomed a slew of mostly benign economic reports.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 70.75 points, or 0.69%, to 10,287.34. The

S&P 500

rose 9.73 points, or 0.83%, to 1186.57. The

Nasdaq Composite

gained 17.61 points, or 0.86%, to 2064.83. All three major indices finished at their session highs.

For the month, the Dow is down 2.66%, the S&P 500 off 3.44%, and the Nasdaq lower by 4.03%.

"Today was our relief rally," said Paul Nolte, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates. "All the economic numbers today were energy- and hurricane-related. Backing that out, the numbers are really not that bad. Next week, the economic numbers won't be really big, so the focus will be back on earnings numbers. This week was just dominated by inflation fears."

United Technologies

(UTX) - Get Free Report

was the Dow's best performer, up 2.3%.


(DD) - Get Free Report

was the Dow's main drag, lower by 0.7%.

About 1.70 billion shares traded on the

New York Stock Exchange

, and volume on the Nasdaq was 1.81 billion shares. Advancers outpaced decliners 2 to 1.

The 10-year Treasury was down 4/32 in price to yield 4.48%. The dollar remained higher vs. the yen and euro. Oil, which fell about $1 Thursday in part because of concerns over the fate of commodities brokerage



, finished down 45 cents to $62.63 a barrel in Nymex floor trading.

The Labor Department's consumer price index rose 1.2% in September, its biggest gain in 25 years, reflecting higher prices for energy. Stripping out energy and food, the core CPI rose 0.1%, about half the expected gain. Retail sales, meanwhile, rose 0.2% in September. The ex-auto rise of 1.1% was higher than economists expected.

"Most market participants are pleased by the CPI data," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial. "Everyone has been focusing on core, so the fact that we came in below expectations is a great thing."

"The headline was hit by a 17.9% jump in gasoline and gains of 11% in fuel oil," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "The Treasury market likes the core, but it will not affect the

Federal Reserve

; the headline and tight labor market scream higher rates."

Elsewhere on the economic front, the Fed said industrial production fell 1.3% in September, the largest drop since 1982. Also, the University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index for October fell unexpectedly to 75.4. Economists expected a rise to 80.4 after a final reading of 76.9 in August.

"The most important number today, out of all of them, was the CPI number," adds Mendelsohn. "We

ended a lousy week on a positive note."

Separately, the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index for October was weaker than expected, coming in at 75.4 vs. a consensus projection of 80.

For the week, the Nasdaq fell 1.22% and the S&P 500 was down 0.8%. The Dow lost 0.05% over the five sessions.

Before the open of trading,


(GE) - Get Free Report



(UNH) - Get Free Report

had solid earnings.

GE's third-quarter earnings rose 15% from a year ago to $4.68 billion, or 44 cents a share, on a 9% jump in revenue to $41.9 billion. Both numbers matched estimates. The conglomerate put fourth-quarter earnings at 56 cents to 58 cents a share; the Thomson First Call consensus is 57 cents a share. GE shares rose 32 cents, or 0.9%, to finish at $34.34.

UnitedHealth said quarterly profit jumped 21% from a year ago to $842 million, or 64 cents a share, on a 15% rise in revenue to $11.32 billion. Analysts had been expecting 63 cents a share on $11.33 billion. For the year, the company sees earnings of $2.48 a share, a penny better than estimates. The stock was higher by $2.23, or 4.1%, to $56.43.


(F) - Get Free Report

, which touched a 52-week low Thursday on growing concerns about its cost structure, was lowered to sell on Friday by Citigroup. The brokerage said October car sales are looking weak and could further harm the company's pricing power. Ford was lower by 38 cents, or 4.2%, to close at $8.61.

General Motors

(GM) - Get Free Report

, meanwhile, is reportedly threatening unilateral benefit reductions in its ongoing labor talks with the United Auto Workers.

The Wall Street Journal

says details could come out when the automaker announces its third-quarter results on Monday. GM added 83 cents, or 3.1%, to $27.98.

Electronic Arts


traded up 3.2% after the company said it enlisted renowned film director Steven Spielberg to collaborate on video games. Shares gained $1.66 to $54.06. Rival


(TTWO) - Get Free Report

was lower by 2%.

Boston Scientific

(BSX) - Get Free Report

posted third-quarter earnings before items of $347 million, or 42 cents a share, down from $404 million, or 47 cents a share, a year earlier. After a $616 million charge related to its Medinol settlement agreement, Boston Scientific lost $269 million, or 33 cents a share. The Thomson First Call consensus was for earnings of 44 cents a share. Sales rose 2% to $1.51 billion in the quarter. Shares lost 44 cents, or 1.8%, to $23.86.

The oil sector witnessed a merger, with

Occidental Petroleum

(OXY) - Get Free Report

saying it will acquire

Vintage Petroleum


for about $3.5 billion in cash and stock. Occidental was down 3% to $72.73, while Vintage surged 26.8% to close at $48.94.

In ratings moves, Bear Stearns downgraded

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Free Report

to peer perform from outperfom, citing increased competition, pricing pressure and a slower-than-expected growth rate for the company's digital light processing business in 2006. TI fell by 96 cents, or 3.1%, to $29.93.

Lehman Brothers upgraded

Continental Airlines

(CAL) - Get Free Report

to equal-weight from underweight. The firm said that airline industry fundamentals are improving as carriers are reducing capacity. Continental added 61 cents, or 5.5%, to $11.78.

Merrill Lynch upgraded


(CELG) - Get Free Report

to buy from neutral, saying the biotech company's Revlimid blood cancer drug and Thalomid skin sore drug could be potential blockbusters. The upgrade sent shares up $4.09, or 8.6%, finishing at $51.70.

Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 adding 0.2% to 5272 and Germany's Xetra DAX up 0.5% at 4975. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.2% to 13,421, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.9% to 14,486.