Stocks Edge Up After Fed Move

Stocks moved slightly higher Friday, as investors shrugged off the Federal Reserve's surprise discount rate hike amid tepid inflation data.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks finished with small gains Friday, as investors digested the

Federal Reserve's

surprise

discount rate hike amid tepid inflation data.

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The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, which traded as much as 40 points lower earlier, added 9 points, or 0.1%, to 10,402 by the closing bell. The

S&P 500

went ahead by 2 points, or 0.2%, at 1109, while the

Nasdaq

gained 2 points, or 0.1%, at 2244.

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Each of the major averages tracked higher for the week, led by the S&P 500's 3.1% advance. The Dow gained 3%, while the Nasdaq improved 2.8% since last Friday's close.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, said the discount rate hike was a positive sign.

"The Fed move sent a message that while they don't intend to raise the short-term rate, they are saying the economy is healing, that no crutches are needed anymore, and the financial system is overcoming its hurdles," Cardillo said. "The market realizes that what the Fed did last night was a positive."

But Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at ChannelCapitalResearch.com, believes questions behind the underlying motive and timing of the move may continue to linger.

"People are now wondering if this is the start of monetary tightening even though the Fed decision last night indicated 'that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period,' " Roberts wrote in a note. "If it is not, the market is left wondering what the true message behind the rate move is."

"The markets will probably be on edge until the Fed chairman's speech next week in which he will be able to clarify the meaning and implications behind the rise in the discount rate," Roberts continued. "It is quite surprising that Dr. Bernanke did not use the speech to telegraph his intentions and then raise the discount rate afterward. Markets will remain on edge until then."

The

consumer price index's release

before the bell took an edge off concerns of imminent tightening. CPI, the price of goods and services purchased by consumers and a closely watched inflation gauge, edged just higher at 0.2% in January. The Labor Department also said its core rate, which strips out food and energy costs, actually showed a decline of 0.1%. Economists expected the index to rise 0.3%, while core CPI was projected to show a 0.1% uptick, according to consensus estimates.

Broad gains from utility and bank names highlighted the session, as the Philadelphia Utility Index and KBW Bank Index rose 1.4% and 1.3%, respectively.

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

,

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

and

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

led the other blue-chip stocks higher. The Dow saw volume of 242 million compared to an average of 200 million.

Shares of

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

and

Sprint Nextel

(S) - Get Report

were the most actively traded on the

New York Stock Exchange

, which had a listed volume 3.9 billion.

Late Thursday,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

topped analysts' estimates, but earnings and sales were lower than last year's. Shares slipped 6.7% by the closing bell.

First Solar

(FSLR) - Get Report

also beat fourth-quarter profit forecasts on Thursday, but

currency and margin concerns sent shares tumbling 8.2% today.

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

said it plans to buy

Metro International Trade Services

. Goldman shares improved 45 cents to $156.18.

Metals and mining company

Anglo American

(AAUK)

blamed a 54% drop in 2009 profit on lower metals prices.

J.C. Penney's

(JCP) - Get Report

shares rose 6.6% after the department store concern beat earnings expectations of $1.02 a share in the fourth quarter.

After

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

spent the past few weeks bracing itself in the wake of recall announcements, President

Akio Toyoda said he will testify in front of Congress next week. Toyota traded 9 cents lower to $73.35.

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

is in discussions

to buy

Smith International

(SII)

, according to a report from

The Wall Street Journal

. The report also estimated that the deal could fetch $9 billion. Schlumberger shares lost 2.9%, while Smith surged 13%.

The greenback edged lower against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down 0.4%.

In commodities markets, crude oil for March delivery settled at $79.81 a barrel after adding 75 cents, and the most actively traded April

gold

contract added $3.40 to settle at $1,122.10 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury strengthened 7/32, pushing the yield lower to 3.780%.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 2.6%, and Japan's Nikkei lost 2.1%. The FTSE in London added 0.6% and the DAX in Frankfurt gained 0.7%.

-- Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York

.