Stocks Kick It Up After Blix - TheStreet

Updated from 4:09 p.m. EST

Stocks rallied in the final hour of trading, as investors mulled the latest news on Iraq. U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, but that various banned materials remain unaccounted for.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

ended up by 158.93 points, or 2.1%, at 1908.80, while the

Nasdaq

rose 32.73 points, or 2.6%, to 1310.17. The

S&P 500

gained 17.51 points, or 2.1%, to 834.89.

Solid earnings from

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and new industrial-production data also helped buoy the market.

Blix's mixed report isn't expected to resolve the conflict in the Security Council over what the next steps toward Iraq should be. After Blix spoke, International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Mohammed ElBaradei made statements that indicate inspections could continue.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Survey for early February came in at 79.2, down from January's 82.4 reading. And industrial production posted a 0.7% jump in January, its biggest gain in six months, after rising 0.4% in December.

In earnings news, Dell reported higher fiscal fourth-quarter profit and said it will meet forecasts for the current quarter. In the wake of the earnings release, First Albany upgraded the company to buy from neutral. Shares rose 10.9% to $25.79.

Graphics semiconductor maker

Nvidia

(NVDA) - Get Report

posted a decline in fourth-quarter profit, but the company was able to improve revenue via a settlement with

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

over the pricing of chips for the software maker's Xbox gaming console. On Friday morning, Wall Street brokerages weighed in, with Morgan Stanley raising the company to overweight from equal weight. Thomas Weisel upgraded the company to buy from market perform. But on the flip side, CSFB told investors to sell into strength, indicating that the company's business may not be as strong as the earnings would imply. Nvidia shares jumped 22% to $12.04.

The earnings sparked a moderate rally among tech stocks, with chipmakers

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

,

Xilinx

(XLNX) - Get Report

and

Lattice Semiconductor

(LSCC) - Get Report

posting gains. The Philly chipmakers rose 5.8%, Altera rose 4%, Xilinx rose 5.2%, and Lattice rose 6.1%.

Analog Devices

(ADI) - Get Report

added to the chip rally, gaining 12.6% to $26.88 after the company announced first-quarter results that topped Wall Street estimates. Banc of America upgraded the company to neutral from sell.

Meanwhile,

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

said it is abandoning negotiations to merge CNN with

Walt Disney's

(DIS) - Get Report

ABC News unit. AOL rose 3.6% to $10.51, while Disney rose 3.2% to $16.65.

Universal Health

(UHS) - Get Report

was one of the day's biggest losers, dropping 16.6% to $34.99 after firing its CFO. In response, Robertson Stephens downgraded the company to equal weight. Merrill Lynch also dropped the company, lowering its rating to neutral from buy.

After the Universal Health news hit, Fulcrum Global Research released a note warning investors that fear could spread to other health care names and downgraded

HCA

(HCA) - Get Report

and

Lifepoint Hospitals

(LPNT)

to sell from buy. HCA shook off the bad news and gained 1.1% to $39.89, while Lifepoint fell 6.8% to $20.44.

GlaxoSmithKline

(GSK) - Get Report

gained 1.5% to $36.38 despite being downgraded to hold from by at SG Cowen.

Biogen

(BGEN)

inched up 0.2% to $37.64 despite the face the company adjusted its fiscal 2002 earnings to $1.31 a share from $1.59 a share.

Diagnostic Products

(DP)

fell 8.8% to $30.65 after the company announced that it contacted the Department of Justice and the SEC to let them know that a Chinese subsidiary made payments that could have violated U.S. law. Also, the company announced fourth-quarter earnings that missed estimates by 3 cents.

Krispy Kreme

(KKD)

affirmed guidance for fiscal 2003 and raised expectations for 2004, telling Wall Street that it is comfortable with estimates and that same-store sales will rise 10% in 2004. Shares rose 9.7% to $31.15.

Pilots at

AMR

(AMR)

, parent of American Airlines, agreed to sit down with the company and discuss pay cuts to help the company reach its stated goal of $4 billion in cost cuts. In return, pilots say they want economic compensation down the line. Shares rose 7.6% to $2.98.

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

rose 3% to $33.75 after Prudential released a positive note on the company, telling investors that now would be a good time to snap up shares, with the company's price-to-book ratio hitting a five-year low.

Morgan Stanley raised its industry view of homebuilders to attractive from in line. The brokerage stressed its two top picks,

Lennar

(LEN) - Get Report

and

Centex

(CTX)

, and said the builders will be able to grow market share even if housing slumps. Lennar rose 2.1% to $52, while Centex rose 1.9% to $53.63.

Treasuries were lower, with the 10-year note down 22/32 to yield 3.96%. Crude oil prices for March delivery rose above $36 on concerns that Nigerian oil workers would start a strike Saturday, according to a

Reuters

report. In international currency markets, the dollar was trading higher against the euro, although it slipped against the yen.

Overseas markets were higher: London's FTSE 100 closed up a point to 3612, and Germany's Xetra DAX ended up 4.7% to 2674. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei gained 1.19% to close at 8701, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng moved up 0.31% to end at 9201.

On Thursday the Dow fell 8 points, or 0.1%, to 7749, while the Nasdaq lost 1 point, or 0.1%, to 1277. The S&P 500 shed 1 point, or 0.2%, to 817.