Updated from 4:06 p.m. EST
A strong profit report from
sent tech stocks rallying Thursday, while blue chips posted more modest gains amid mixed earnings and economic data.
rose 39.85 points, or 1.53%, to 2640.86, helped by a 6.5% climb in shares of business-software giant Oracle.
Among blue chip indices, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
continued a string of uneven trading sessions, spending time on both sides of the flatline before finishing higher. The Dow added 38.37 points, or 0.29%, to 13,245.64. The
rose 7.12 points, or 0.49%, to 1460.12.
"This is a very typical pattern for December, in that there is no big price change so far this month," said Phillip Roth, chief technical market analyst with Miller Tabak. "If we don't get a rally next week, it would be unusual and certainly a negative. Right now, it seems as though we're stabilizing and setting up for a rally."
Peter Cardillo, chief market economist with Avalon Partners, agreed that the market was set for a technical bounce before year-end.
"The market remains skittish, but we're in the lower end of the trading range so we should see a technical bounce," said Cardillo. "We should now begin to see holiday volume creep in here, also."
Breadth was positive Thursday as volume was steady. On the
New York Stock Exchange
, 3.45 billion shares changed hands, as advancers topped decliners by nearly a 6-to-5 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 1.96 billion shares, with winners outpacing losers 3 to 2.
After the previous close, Oracle reported a fiscal second-quarter profit that jumped 35% from a year ago, surpassing Wall Street's estimates. Software license sales soared 38%, and Oracle offered rosy guidance for the current period. Shares rose $1.34 to $22.10.
But the earnings news wasn't as bright for other big names.
become the latest investment bank to post a quarterly loss, the first in the company's history, due to a $1.9 billion writedown from mortgage-related losses. Bear Stearns spent most of the session lower before climbing 82 cents, or 0.9%, to close at $91.42.
posted a 6% decline in fiscal second-quarter earnings, though that managed to top Wall Street's estimates. The company, however, projected fiscal third-quarter earnings below analysts' forecasts, and the stock was lower in the premarket session. FedEx slid $1, or 1.1%, to $93.63.
FedEx weighed on the Dow Jones Transportation Average, which was down 0.1%. Among other losers, the S&P Retail Index and the NYSE Financial Index both shed 0.3%.
Tech subsector indices, on the other hand, benefited from Oracle's earnings beat. The Software HOLDRS Index added 1.9%, the Amex Computer Technology Index was up 1.6%, and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Sector Index rose 1.4%.
Traders also dealt with several economic reports. Before the bell, the Commerce Department said its final read of third-quarter gross domestic product came in at 4.9%, unchanged from the preliminary read.
The core personal consumption expenditure price index -- which the
closely monitors as an inflation measure -- is now up 2% over the previous year, slightly above preliminary reports.
Also on the economic docket, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose a greater-than-expected 12,000 last week to 346,000 claims, which was above consensus. Elsewhere, the Conference Board said that leading economic indicators fell 0.4% last month, more than economists expected.
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Fed said its manufacturing index plunged to a reading of minus 5.7 in December from 8.2 last month, far below estimates to become the lowest reading since April 2003.
In other corporate news,
rose 3.5% after the athletic-gear giant reported a 10% rise in second-quarter profits late Wednesday. The results easily beat the Thomson First Call average estimate. Shares of Nike added $2.21 to $66.01.
also had a solid report, topping Wall Street estimates with a 34% rise in first-quarter earnings. The tech services firm also lifted its forecast for the full year. Accenture climbed $2.28, or 6.5%, to $37.24.
After Thursday's close,
Research in Motion
was out with third-quarter results, handily beating estimates to surge more than 11% in the after-hours session.
Away from earnings, bond insurer
plunged after disclosing its exposure to risky collateralized debt obligations. The stock slid $7.07, or 26.2%, to $19.95.
"The stock market remains unsettled, as the nation's economic problems grow," said Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. "Sadly, more downgrades are likely to follow as the bond insurance industry may fail."
Last time out, a dour outlook from S&P on MBIA and fellow bond player
contributed to a shaky day for the markets. After wobbling between negative and positive territory, the Dow ended down 25.20 points, or 0.2%, to 13,207.27. The S&P slipped 1.98 points, or 0.1%, to 1453, while the Nasdaq managed to gain 4.98 points, or 0.2%, to close at 2601.01.
This week's rockiness comes ahead of Friday's expiration of four separate derivatives contracts, an event known as quadruple witching. Single-stock futures, stock options, index futures and index options all were trading for the last time. The simultaneous expiration happens quarterly and can lead to considerable volatility.
U.S. Treasuries were edging lower. The 10-year note was down 3/32 in price, pushing the yield to 4.04%. The 30-year bond lost 10/32 in price, yielding 4.47%.
Commodity prices were mixed. Crude oil was down 18 cents to close at $91.06 a barrel, and gold futures lost $2.20 to end at $803.20 an ounce. Silver finished higher for the day.
Overseas markets were also uneven. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng eased 0.1%, while Japan's Nikkei 225 was unchanged. Among European bourses, London's FTSE 100 tacked on 1%, and Germany's Xetra Dax was up 0.4%.