Updated from 4:04 p.m. EDTThe Dow ended the holiday-shortened week decidedly lower Thursday as strong earnings news from General Electric ( GE) , Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Dell ( DELL) couldn't take investors' minds off war. After popping to 10,554 earlier, the Dow closed down 38.12 points, or 0.36%, to 10,442.03. The S&P 500 lost 1.20 points, or 0.11%, to 1139.33, while the Nasdaq -- which rose 1% in early trading -- clung to a gain of 2.62 points, or 0.13%, to 2052.86. The markets are closed for Good Friday. The 10-year Treasury bond ended down 11/32 in price to yield 4.2%, while the dollar was stronger against the euro and yen. All of the major indices ended slightly lower for the week, despite a healthy rally Monday and broad gains in the week before. The S&P 500 lost about 2 points, or 0.2%; the Dow fell about 0.3%; and the Nasdaq shed 0.2%. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange approached 1.2 billion shares, and decliners outnumbered advancers by about 2 to 1. On the Nasdaq, almost 1.7 billion shares changed hands and decliners outpaced advancers by about 5 to 4. "I think we were a little overbought there, and people are letting some things go before the holiday weekend," said John Hughes, equity strategist at Shields & Co. "Geopolitical concerns and the impact it's going to have on the election make it seem like there's a lot of negatives out there, so you have some profit-taking." Peter Dunay, chief market strategist at Wall Street Access, said Iraq was emerging as a prime influence on the markets. "This becomes a major turning point in Iraq," he said. "If the violence eases up in the next couple of weeks to the occasional sabotage events, then the market will continue to believe that we have control over the situation and it's just a matter of when we can transfer power. But if things continue to escalate, the costs will be monstrous, and that uncertainty will dominate trading."
Sean Martin, head trader at A. Gary Shilling, said traders were optimistic about the geopolitical situation despite the flood of discouraging news. "The market knows there are going to be bumps in the road, but most sane people will sit back and say that, for the most part, things are going well over there, and the market has been reflecting that," he said. The topic of terror hung heavy on the market Thursday because of the testimony of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who told the commission investigating Sept. 11 that "no silver bullet" existed that could have prevented the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Defending the Bush administration from allegations it ignored warnings an attack was imminent, Rice portrayed the president as conscious of the threat when he took office and determined to squelch it. Also, French authorities evacuated train stations in Paris after a bomb threat was received, according to media reports; the alert was later lifted after nothing suspicious was found and the time frame for the threat had passed. Meanwhile, fighting continued to rage around Iraq, with insurgents loyal to an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric reportedly in control of three cities, and more explosions reported in Baghdad. At least 36 Americans and 459 Iraqis have been killed this week, with the heaviest fighting in Fallujah, west of Baghdad. On Thursday, the country's interior minister stepped down at the request of the U.S. military in an effort to restore Shiite-Sunni balance to the government. The Dow held onto a gain of 0.1% for the year, while the Nasdaq and the S&P are both up 2.5%. Early trading had been driven by a whirlwind of earnings news that broke since the closing bell Wednesday. Leading Thursday morning's charge was GE, which reported an 8% jump in first-quarter profit and revenue that surpassed estimates by more than $1 billion. The company reiterated its prediction for double-digit profit growth in 2005. The stock closed higher by 1 cent to $31.39.
Yahoo! was up 16% one day after it had said quarterly profit more than doubled and it set a 2-for-1 stock split. The Internet company posted first-quarter earnings of $101 million, or 14 cents a share, including a 1 cent-per-share gain, compared with $47 million, or 8 cents a share, last year. Revenue before traffic-acquisition costs was $550 million in the latest quarter, up from $283 million last year. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of 11 cents a share. Yahoo!'s stock closed up $7.78 to $56.13. Other major Internet stocks surfed the Yahoo! wave. Amazon ( AMZN) gained 4.9% and eBay ( EBAY) was up 2.5%. Dell gained 2.2% after raising its estimate for first-quarter sales to $11.4 billion from $11.2 billion. The computer giant, which had sales of $9.5 billion in the year-ago quarter, cited strength in overseas markets, with its best performance coming in servers and storage systems. The company left first-quarter earnings guidance alone at 28 cents a share. Analysts were forecasting earnings of 28 cents a share on revenue of $11.2 billion, according to Thomson First Call. The shares closed up 78 cents to $35.60. Despite high expectations for the earnings season, a flare-up of violence in Iraq led to some uncertainty in the markets this week, reflected in strength Thursday among some defense and homeland security stocks. IPIX ( IPIX), which sells video surveillance applications, skyrocketed 57.5%, and Magal Security ( MAGS) rose 22.2%. Another trading catalyst Thursday was the same-store sales updates from national retail chains. Most notably, Wal-Mart ( WMT) said comparable-store sales rose 6% in last month from a year earlier, slightly better than expected, on the strength of clothes and Easter-product sales. The shares lost $1.32, or 2.3%, to $56.66. Highflying specialty outlet Pacific Sunwear ( PSUN) said same-store sales shot up 12.4% in March, well ahead of expectations, and raised its first-quarter earnings guidance by 2 cents to 16 cents a share. And Sharper Image ( SHRP) said March same-store sales rose 3%, a bit less than expected. But the company also raised earnings guidance. Its shares rose $1.91, or 6.2%, to $32.57.
In other earnings news, Abbott Labs ( ABT) reported a 14% jump in revenue and beat analysts' earnings expectations in the first quarter. The company had a profit of $822.9 million, or 52 cents a share, vs. $801 million, or 51 cents a share, a year ago. Its stock lost 38 cents, or 0.9%, to $42.37. Genentech ( DNA) posted much stronger than expected earnings and revenue in its first quarter. It earned $176.6 million, or 33 cents a share, in the latest quarter, compared with earnings of $151.5 million, or 29 cents a share, last year. Its stock closed up $3.85, or 3.5%, to $112.30. Research In Motion ( RIMM) lost 2.2% despite reporting a strong profit and outlook after Wednesday's closing bell. Its shares lost $2.41 to $105.57. Overseas markets were mostly higher, with London's FTSE closing up 0.5% to 4490 and Germany's Xetra DAX adding 0.3% to 4013. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.6% to 12,093, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 0.1% to 12,909. No major economic news is due out Monday. In earnings news before the opening bell, releases are scheduled from Gannett ( GCI), expected to report first-quarter earnings of $1 a share, up from last year's 93 cents a share; The New York Times Co. ( NYT), expected to report first-quarter earnings of 36 cents a share, down from last year's 42 cents a share; and Shaw Group ( SGR), expected to report second-quarter earnings of 8 cents a share, down from last year's 30 cents a share.