Updated from 4:07 p.m. EDTThe Nasdaq closed below the 2000 mark Friday for the first time since March 31, while the Dow held a solid gain, as recent concerns about higher interest rates were tempered by two negative economic readings and luke-warm tech earnings. The Nasdaq closed down for the fourth straight session, losing 6.43 points, or 0.32%, to 1995.74, while the Dow finished up 51.03 points, or 0.52%, to 10,451.83. The S&P 500 was up 5.69 points, or 0.5%, to 1134.53. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange approached 1.5 billion, and advancers outnumbered decliners by about 7 to 2. Over 1.8 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq, where advancers had a slight edge on the decliners. "You have a split in the market right now, with the Nasdaq definitely lagging behind other indices," said Richard Dickson, senior strategist at Lowry's Reports. "It may be the case that tech has run up so much over the last year that there is something of a leadership change happening right now, going into areas that have not been as fully exploited in the marketplace." The Dow finished ahead for the week, up 0.1%, while the Nasdaq, down 2.9%, and the S&P, down 0.4%, are now mired in two-week losing streaks. Weakness in the markets came despite a generally positive earnings season, as evidence of increased economic growth and inflation boosted concerns that the Fed would raise interest rates sooner than expected. Two speeches from Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan expected on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday will be closely scrutinized by investors trying to anticipate the central bank's next move. The Nasdaq tested a technical support level in the 1990 range early Friday, before returning to hug the 2000 mark for the rest of the day. "For the Nasdaq, the 1990 point is really the drop-dead level for me," Dickson said. "Now we've retraced over 50% of the rally from the March 24 low, and we've done it at a pretty good volume. If we close below this level, the chances are that you'll see a test of that low point." "It's been a lousy week for investing, but a good week for trading," said Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates. "It's a tug-of-war right now between the bulls and the bears, and I'm getting the sense that they're both digging in their heels." "What I think is going on right now is just a re-evaluation and everyone rethinking their position as to what should be doing well going forward and what they should rotate out of," he added. The Dow was led by Alcoa ( AA), which rose 99 cents, or 3%, to $33.99 on a broad rally in mining stocks and precious metals. The iShares Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate ETF ( IYR) vaulted 1% on strength in the housing market, and banks and hospitals also contributed to the strong blue-chip performance. Tech stocks lagged, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index down 1.8%. Despite selling off much of the week, the 10-year Treasury note finished up 14/32 in price to bring the yield down to 4.34%. Earlier Friday, the Fed reported that industrial production fell unexpectedly in March by 0.2%, after economists had predicted a rise of 0.3%. Production in February was revised up slightly to a 0.8% jump from the previously reported 0.7%. Also, U.S. factories were measured to be producing at 76.5% of capacity in March, slightly lower than the consensus estimate of 76.8% and February's upwardly revised 76.7%.
Meanwhile, the University of Michigan said the preliminary reading on its consumer sentiment index in April showed an unexpected drop to 93.2, after economists predicted the index would rise to 97 from March's reading of 95.8. Elsewhere on the economic front, the Census Bureau said housing starts jumped an unexpected 6.4% in March to 2.007 million units after economists were predicting 1.9 million. February's housing starts figure was revised up to 1.887 million from 1.855 million. Also, building permits beat Wall Street estimates, totaling 1.946 million in March after economists were expecting only 1.910 million. February's figure was revised down to 1.903 million from 1.909 million. In corporate news, E*Trade Financial ( ET) earned 23 cents a share in the first quarter, better than the consensus forecast of 20 cents a share and last year's 10 cents a share. Its shares closed up 4 cents, or 0.3%, to $12.32. Nokia ( NOK) had a profit of 17 European cents a share, less than last year's 20 cents a share, having already warned about first-quarter results last week. The company's forecasts for current-quarter EPS and revenue were also below consensus estimates. Its shares closed down $1.44, or 9%, to $14.61. Delphi ( DPH) earned 22 cents a share. It was expected to report a profit of 20 cents a share, down from last year's 23 cents a share. Its shares finished down 3 cents, or 0.3%, to $9.80. Finally, IBM ( IBM) late Thursday reported a 16% rise in first-quarter earnings on an 11% increase in revenue. It earned $1.6 billion, or 93 cents a share, up from $1.38 billion, or 79 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Its shares lost $1.69, or 1.8%, to $92.28. Overseas markets were mostly higher, with London's FTSE 100 closing up 0.7% to 4537 while Germany's Xetra DAX gained 0.7% to 4034. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed up 0.2% to 11,824 after a major decline Thursday, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2% to 12,454. Before Monday's opening bell, the second week of the first-quarter earnings storm begins with releases from companies such as 3M ( MMM), expected to report profits of 87 cents a share, up from last year's 71 cents a share; Wachovia ( WB), expected to earn 90 cents a share, up from last year's 79 cents a share; Eli Lilly ( LLY), which analysts anticipate will grow profits to 66 cents a share from last year's 61 cents a share; and Fannie Mae ( FNM), expected to report profits of $1.91 a share, up from last year's $1.84. At 10 a.m. EDT, the Conference Board is expected to say its index of leading indicators gained 0.3% in March after staying flat in February.