Updated from 4:04 p.m. EDTA late run lifted stocks to solid gains Friday as Wall Street welcomed a slew of mostly benign economic reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 70.75 points, or 0.69%, to 10,287.34. The S&P 500 rose 9.73 points, or 0.83%, to 1186.57. The Nasdaq Composite gained 17.61 points, or 0.86%, to 2064.83. All three major indices finished at their session highs. For the month, the Dow is down 2.66%, the S&P 500 off 3.44%, and the Nasdaq lower by 4.03%. "Today was our relief rally," said Paul Nolte, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates. "All the economic numbers today were energy- and hurricane-related. Backing that out, the numbers are really not that bad. Next week, the economic numbers won't be really big, so the focus will be back on earnings numbers. This week was just dominated by inflation fears." United Technologies ( UTX) was the Dow's best performer, up 2.3%. Pfizer ( DD) was the Dow's main drag, lower by 0.7%. About 1.70 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and volume on the Nasdaq was 1.81 billion shares. Advancers outpaced decliners 2 to 1. The 10-year Treasury was down 4/32 in price to yield 4.48%. The dollar remained higher vs. the yen and euro. Oil, which fell about $1 Thursday in part because of concerns over the fate of commodities brokerage Refco ( RFX), finished down 45 cents to $62.63 a barrel in Nymex floor trading. The Labor Department's consumer price index rose 1.2% in September, its biggest gain in 25 years, reflecting higher prices for energy. Stripping out energy and food, the core CPI rose 0.1%, about half the expected gain. Retail sales, meanwhile, rose 0.2% in September. The ex-auto rise of 1.1% was higher than economists expected. "Most market participants are pleased by the CPI data," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial. "Everyone has been focusing on core, so the fact that we came in below expectations is a great thing." "The headline was hit by a 17.9% jump in gasoline and gains of 11% in fuel oil," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "The Treasury market likes the core, but it will not affect the
"The most important number today, out of all of them, was the CPI number," adds Mendelsohn. "We
ended a lousy week on a positive note." Separately, the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index for October was weaker than expected, coming in at 75.4 vs. a consensus projection of 80. For the week, the Nasdaq fell 1.22% and the S&P 500 was down 0.8%. The Dow lost 0.05% over the five sessions. Before the open of trading, GE ( GE) and UnitedHealth ( UNH) had solid earnings. GE's third-quarter earnings rose 15% from a year ago to $4.68 billion, or 44 cents a share, on a 9% jump in revenue to $41.9 billion. Both numbers matched estimates. The conglomerate put fourth-quarter earnings at 56 cents to 58 cents a share; the Thomson First Call consensus is 57 cents a share. GE shares rose 32 cents, or 0.9%, to finish at $34.34. UnitedHealth said quarterly profit jumped 21% from a year ago to $842 million, or 64 cents a share, on a 15% rise in revenue to $11.32 billion. Analysts had been expecting 63 cents a share on $11.33 billion. For the year, the company sees earnings of $2.48 a share, a penny better than estimates. The stock was higher by $2.23, or 4.1%, to $56.43. Ford ( F), which touched a 52-week low Thursday on growing concerns about its cost structure, was lowered to sell on Friday by Citigroup. The brokerage said October car sales are looking weak and could further harm the company's pricing power. Ford was lower by 38 cents, or 4.2%, to close at $8.61. General Motors ( GM), meanwhile, is reportedly threatening unilateral benefit reductions in its ongoing labor talks with the United Auto Workers. The Wall Street Journal says details could come out when the automaker announces its third-quarter results on Monday. GM added 83 cents, or 3.1%, to $27.98.
Electronic Arts ( ERTS) traded up 3.2% after the company said it enlisted renowned film director Steven Spielberg to collaborate on video games. Shares gained $1.66 to $54.06. Rival Take-Two ( TTWO) was lower by 2%. Boston Scientific ( BSX) posted third-quarter earnings before items of $347 million, or 42 cents a share, down from $404 million, or 47 cents a share, a year earlier. After a $616 million charge related to its Medinol settlement agreement, Boston Scientific lost $269 million, or 33 cents a share. The Thomson First Call consensus was for earnings of 44 cents a share. Sales rose 2% to $1.51 billion in the quarter. Shares lost 44 cents, or 1.8%, to $23.86. The oil sector witnessed a merger, with Occidental Petroleum ( OXY) saying it will acquire Vintage Petroleum ( VPI) for about $3.5 billion in cash and stock. Occidental was down 3% to $72.73, while Vintage surged 26.8% to close at $48.94. In ratings moves, Bear Stearns downgraded Texas Instruments ( TXN) to peer perform from outperfom, citing increased competition, pricing pressure and a slower-than-expected growth rate for the company's digital light processing business in 2006. TI fell by 96 cents, or 3.1%, to $29.93. Lehman Brothers upgraded Continental Airlines ( CAL) to equal-weight from underweight. The firm said that airline industry fundamentals are improving as carriers are reducing capacity. Continental added 61 cents, or 5.5%, to $11.78. Merrill Lynch upgraded Celgene ( CELG) to buy from neutral, saying the biotech company's Revlimid blood cancer drug and Thalomid skin sore drug could be potential blockbusters. The upgrade sent shares up $4.09, or 8.6%, finishing at $51.70. Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 adding 0.2% to 5272 and Germany's Xetra DAX up 0.5% at 4975. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.2% to 13,421, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.9% to 14,486.