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Stocks End With Small Gains

The averages find little direction as the war winds down and economic data remains mixed.

Updated from 4:05 p.m. EDT

A big quarter at

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

and relief that the war may be winding down gave stocks a slight boost on Thursday.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

ended up 23.39 points, or 0.3%, at 8221.33, taking some of the bite out of Wednesday's 100-point slide. The

Nasdaq

, boosted by the Yahoo! news, gained 8.86 points, or 0.7%, to 1365.60, while the

S&P 500

gained 5.59 points, or 0.7%, to 871.58.

Treasuries were weaker, with the yield on the 10-year note up 3 basis points to 3.92%, but oil sold off on a combination of good war news and speculation that OPEC could have a supply glut on its hands. Crude was down $1.39 cents at $27.49 a barrel in New York.

Despite Iraqi celebrations in the streets at the apparent fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, coalition forces met with resistance Thursday as they tried to secure control of Baghdad. Meanwhile, U.S. troops joined Kurdish forces and pushed into Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in northern Iraq, where the fighting was said to be light.

In economic news, initial jobless claims came in at 405,000 in the latest week, about 20,000 fewer than what economists expected and much lower than the 445,000 claims that came in last week.

Quarterly earnings season kicks into high gear next week, but results are already trickling in. After the bell Wednesday, Yahoo! said it beat Wall Street's second-quarter earnings estimates. The company also raised its guidance for 2003. Yahoo! shares were up 6.1% to $24.27.

In other corporate news,

Network Associates

(NET) - Get Report

, maker of the McAfee computer security programs, reported a loss, while

Genentech

(DNA)

said first-quarter net earnings rose 59% but sales fell short of analysts' estimates. Network Associates was down 19% to $10.80, while Genentech was down 3.9% to $34.99.

Rupert Murdoch's

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

said late Wednesday that it sealed a deal to buy a controlling stake in

Hughes Electronics'

(GMH)

U.S. satellite TV provider, DirecTV, in a $6.6 billion cash-and-stock deal. Shares in News Corp. was down 6.5% to $25.45, while Hughes was down 9.8% to $10.36.

The deal was especially hard on shares of

Fox Entertainment

(FOX) - Get Report

. They fell 17.1% to $22.60 after Deutsche Securities downgraded the company to hold from buy, telling investors that the Hughes deal would be dilutive to Fox earnings in 2004 and 2005.

In other media news,

USA Interactive

(USAI) - Get Report

said it will buy out public shareholders of

Hotels.com

(ROOM)

, an online hotel reservation agency, for about $1.1 billion in stock. USA, which already owns 68% of the outstanding stock of Hotels.com, said the deal will add to its 2003 earnings per share. USA was up 6.3% to $26.69, while Hotels.com was up 19.1% to $63.50.

Retailers were talking about sales for March, with industry bellwether

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

saying that same-store sales rose 0.7% in March, while April same-store sales will rise by 5% to 7%. Wal-Mart shares rose 1.6% to $54.58.

On an up note,

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

, discounter

Fred's

and

May Department Stores

(MAY)

all posted same-store sales gains in excess of 6% from the previous March. Of those names, Fred's was the big winner, gaining 7.1% to $31.46.

Meanwhile, clothiers

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

,

Bebe

(BEBE)

TheStreet Recommends

,

Wet Seal

(WTSLA)

and department store

Dillard's

(DDS) - Get Report

had same-store sales stumbles in excess of 10% from last year's levels.

A number of retailers, notably

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

, were warning that earnings would be slumping, with

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

,

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

,

Talbots

(TLB)

,

Payless Shoe

(PSS)

,

Linens'n Things

(LIN) - Get Report

and

Claire's Stores

(CLE)

all guiding below current consensus estimates. Target gained 3.4% to $31.85, while J.C. Penney was off 4.3% to $18.08.

Pacific Sunwear

(PSUN)

bucked the trend and said first-quarter earnings would come in at 14 cents a share, two cents better than analysts' expectations, after March same-store sales rose 9.5% on the year. Shares were unchanged at $21.21.

On the earnings front,

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

reported a fourth-quarter loss of 4 cents a share, while

Pier 1 Imports

(PIR) - Get Report

reported fourth-quarter earnings of 57 cents a share. Rite Aid was down 1.9% to $2.60, while Pier 1 was up 5.2% to $16.83.

On the healthcare front,

Tenet Healthcare

(THC) - Get Report

reported third-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street estimates, while guiding 2003 guidance well below current expectations due to a rule change to Medicare outlier payments. Rival

HCA Healthcare

(HCA) - Get Report

was downgraded to neutral from buy at Banc of America, which said that Medicare outlier payments could fall by 30%. Tenet shares gained 0.3% to $15.10, while HCA dropped 5.7% to $35.52.

Infosys

(INFY) - Get Report

shares fell 32.2% to $40.25, after the company announced fourth-quarter earnings that met Wall Street expectations but warned that first-quarter and full-year 2004 earnings would miss estimates.

T.Rowe Price

(TROW) - Get Report

said that first-quarter earnings would be down 30% year-over-year. Shares fell 2.1% to $27.27, as a result.

Oil service stocks got a boost after Prudential Securities raised its view of the sector to market outperform from market underperform, saying that commodity prices have returned to Earth and that low natural gas inventories could drive demand. The Philly oil service index rose 3.3%, led higher by

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Report

, up 4.7% to $20.61.

IDEC Pharmaceuticals

(IDPH)

fell 6.9% to $31.59 after RBC Capital downgraded the company to sector perform from sector outperform, while cutting its price target to $38 from $45.

Stocks were weak overseas, with London's FTSE closing down 1.5% at 3803 and Germany's Xetra DAX off 1.4% at 2697. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei lost 1% to end at 7980, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.1% to close at 8625.

On Wednesday, the Dow ended down 100 points, or 1.2%, at 8197. The S&P 500 lost 12 points, or 1.4%, to 865, while the Nasdaq dropped 26 points, or 1.9%, to 1356.