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Wall Street Ends Upbeat

Stocks catch a late bid after positive comments from Cisco.

Updated from 4:12 p.m. EDT

Stocks in the U.S. closed higher Friday as a late pop in


(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

helped the market run up after mixed economic data had threatened to stall it out.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 59.17 points, or 0.47%, at 12,612.13, and the

S&P 500

tacked on 5.05 points, or 0.35%, at 1452.85. The

Nasdaq Composite

, which spent most of the session in the red, rose 11.62 points, or 0.47%, to 2491.94.

While Wall Street hadn't moved much until the afternoon, buyers came in after a Cisco executive said sales were growing toward the high end of the networker's forecast. Shares of Cisco advanced 2.7%.

Overall, stocks ended a volatile week with gains. The Dow added 0.4%, the S&P 500 was up 0.6%, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.8%.

About 2.61 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

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, where advancers beat decliners by a 10-to-7 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 1.89 billion shares, with winners outpacing losers 3 to 2.

Before the open, the Labor Department's producer price index for March showed that inflationary pressures were contained. The headline index rose 1%, which was above projections, but the core index, excluding food and energy, was unchanged.

The core rate advanced 1.7% year over year, down slightly from February and within the

Federal Reserve's

comfort range of 1% to 2%.

"The fact that the core rate of inflation came down year over year, that will keep

the Fed at bay," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist with Avalon Partners. "On a temporary basis, the market is relieved the core rate didn't go up."

Next Tuesday, the consumer price index, viewed as the more important of the two measures, will be released.

"Through the first half of 2007, core consumer price inflation is likely to be above

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's target of 2%, and energy prices will push the broader inflation indexes up much more sharply," said Peter Morici, professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

"Yet the clouded outlook for economic growth and risk of recession will check the Federal Reserve's inclination to boost interest rates," he added.

Elsewhere on the economic docket, the Commerce Department also surprised analysts when its report on the U.S. trade balance showed that the country's deficit unexpectedly narrowed 0.7% to $58.4 billion in March, the third straight decline.

"This looks good but all the improvement was due to the brief but sharp drop in oil prices in January," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "With the usual lag, this depressed the value of oil imports in February, which fell a huge $3.7 billion. This will largely reverse in March."

However, the day wasn't completely free of negative data. The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index fell to a reading of 85.3 in April from 88.4 last month. The latest reading came in below the consensus 87.5 and was the lowest for the index since August.

Treasuries were lower. The 10-year note was down 6/32 in price, yielding 4.76%, and the 30-year bond lost 10/32 to yield 4.93%. The dollar was weakening against the world's major currencies.

Leading the corporate news was


(GE) - Get General Electric Company Report

, who said it earned $4.51 billion, or 44 cents a share, from continuing operations for the most recent quarter. That matched estimates. Revenue of $40.2 billion was a bit better than expected.

At the same time, it guided in line for the rest of the year. Shares of GE finished up 20 cents, or 0.6%, to $35.38.

GE wasn't the only member of the Dow out with profit figures, as


(MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. Report

lifted its forecast for full year by 20 cents.

The drugmaker's outlook took some of the sting out of word that an advisory panel to U.S. regulators voted to recommend Merck's pain drug Arcoxia be denied approval. Merck surged $3.85, or 8.3%, to $50.21.

Shares of


(INFY) - Get Infosys Ltd. Report

also finished higher after the company posted a 70% jump in fourth-quarter earnings from the year-ago period. The company added $1.43, or 2.7%, to $54.96.

Away from earnings,

SLM Corp.

(SLM) - Get SLM Corp Report

, or Sallie Mae, soared after an article in

The New York Times

said the company is in talks to be acquired by private equity firms in a deal that is expected to top $20 billion. The stock jumped $6.01, or 14.8%, to finish at $46.76.

Meanwhile, commodities ended the day mixed. Crude oil futures were down 22 cents to $63.63 a barrel in a volatile session, and gold advanced $10.20 to $689.90 an ounce.

Overseas, stocks fell in Asia and rose in Europe. Tokyo's Nikkei dropped 1% to 17,364 overnight, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.2% to 20,341. The FTSE in London was higher by 0.7% at 6462, and Frankfurt's DAX was better by 1% at 7212.