Markets Limp to a Stalemate


FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

Wall Street concluded the week in limbo on Friday as tech stocks powered the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite to their highest levels in nearly three years, but the slumping euro kept the Dow from joining the party.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.34 points, or 0.06%, to 11491.91, the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 1.03 points, or 0.08%, to 1243.90 and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 5.66 points, or 0.21%, to 2642.97. The FOX 50 slipped 0.37 points, or 0.04%, to 890.95.

Friday marked an anticlimactic response to a number of significant events, including President Barack Obama signing the tax deal into law, Moody's slashing Ireland's credit rating by five notches and upbeat quarterly results from tech giants like Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)

Despite the uneven conclusion to the week, all three major indexes landed in the green on the week and each touched fresh 2010 highs.

“The market, all things considered, is hanging in there pretty good. I still think the lines of least resistance, at least in the short term, are still up,” Ted Weisberg, a veteran NYSE trader from Seaport Securities, told FOX Business.

Wall Street enjoyed an up tick in trading volume on Friday because of the phenomenon known as "triple witching," which occurs when contracts for stock index futures, stock index options and stock options all expire at once.

Just over half of the Dow's 30 members lost ground, headlined by Merck (NYSE:MRK) and American Express (NYSE:AXP). The index's best performers were Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA).

The Nasdaq Composite managed to keep its head above water, driven higher by tech stocks like Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) and Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK).

The tech sector had a modestly positive response to a slew of earnings earnings beats released late Thursday. Business software titan Oracle, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and video-game publisher Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ:TTWO) all saw their stocks rise after posting results that exceeded expectations.

Market sentiment was hurt a bit by the euro, which slumped 0.45% to $1.3176 after Moody's took an axe to Ireland's credit rating, dropping it by five notches amid continued worries about the Irish economy and financial liabilities. Wall Street pays close attention to the euro's relationship with the dollar because a weaker greenback helps exports and commodities.

Despite enthusiasm for the deal, Wall Street had little positive reaction on Friday to the House of Representatives giving the tax-cut compromise the green light just after midnight. The markets have cheered the deal, which has been hailed as the most far-reaching tax bill in a decade.

By extending the Bush tax cuts for two years, Congress has removed a big source of uncertainty in the markets and prevented raising taxes amid the slow economy. The package also includes stimulative measures and has motivated many forecasters to hike their economic outlooks.

In the commodities complex, crude oil rose 32 cents a barrel, or 0.36%, to $88.02. Gold gained $8.20 a troy ounce, or 0.60%, to $1,378.60.

Corporate Movers

Bank of Montreal (NYSE:BMO) set its sights south and scooped up U.S. regional bank Marshall & Ilsley (NYSE:MI) in a $4.1 billion deal. The all-stock bid for Wisconsin’s largest bank values each share of Marshall & Ilsley at $7.75, compared with its Thursday’s close of $5.79. To help pay for the deal, BMO plans to raise about C$800 million in additional common equity.

Sara Lee (NYSE:SLE) is considering a sale to Brazil's JBS, The Wall Street Journal reported. A sale is one of several options the company is said to be mulling, including a breakup and sale of its core businesses.

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) jumped 4% after beating the Street Thursday with a non-GAAP profit of 51 cents a share, ahead of estimates of 46 cents. Revenue soared 58% to $8.58 million, topping expectations. The business software titan also projected a non-GAAP profit of 48 cents to 50 cents a share for the current quarter, above forecasts for 46 cents.

AstraZeneca's (NYSE:AZN) stock slumped almost 6% after the FDA said it is delaying approval of the drug maker's heart treatment Brillinta until more data is provided. The world's second-biggest drug maker had been hoping Brillinta would offset lost revenue from expiring patents on other drugs.

Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) rallied after posting third-quarter EPS of $1.74 that exceeded forecasts for $1.65. The BlackBerry maker's revenue of $5.5 billion also narrowly topped estimates amid strength for its Torch touchscreen device.

Global Markets

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 declined 0.16% to 5871.75, France's CAC 40 lost 0.54% to 3867.35 and Germany's DAX slid 0.34% to 6982.45.

In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.07% to 10303.80, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2% to 22714.80 and China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.15% to 2893.74.

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