Nasdaq Jumps, But Caterpillar Weighs on Dow

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The Nasdaq got a lift from relatively strong performance by technology companies on Friday, but the blue chips were dragged down after Caterpillar's quarterly profit disappointed Wall Street.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 43 points, or 0.34%, to 12,681, the S&P 500 rose 1.2 point, or 0.09%, to 1,345 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 24.4 points, or 0.86%, to 2,859. The FOX 50 climbed 1.9 points to 953.

Despite fairly anemic performance on the day, the major market averages posted a strong week. The Dow jumped 1.6%, the broad S&P 500 tacked on 2.2% and the Nasdaq soared 2.5%.

Technology companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) performed the best on the day. However, makers of heavy-duty goods like Honeywell (NYSE:HON) and Deere (NYSE:DE) struggled after Caterpillar unveiled disappointing quarterly results.

Earnings season kicked into high gear this week, with nearly half of the 30 Dow components reporting earnings.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) revealed earning on continuing operations of $1.72 a share, disappointing analysts who expected earnings of $1.75. The largest heavy machinery maker in the world said it expects to earn between $6.75 and $7.25 in for the full-year 2011.

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) earned $1.35 a share, zipping by estimates of $1.28 a share.  Shares of the fast food behemoth hit an all-time high on the news.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) posted profits of 34 cents a share, excluding one-time costs, which topped Wall Street's forecast by 2 cents.  The largest U.S. conglomerate benefited from strong demand for heavy equipment abroad.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) unveiled profits of 57 cents a share, besting expectations of 55 cents, getting a boost from adding more Apple iPhone subscribers than expected.

Market participants were also paying close attention to the euro zone debt crisis that has been in focus for several weeks.  European Union leaders agreed Thursday to provide Greece with a second bailout valuing $157 billion, plus a private-sector investment of up to $72 billion. The European Financial Stability Facility, which was designed in 2010 to provide aid in perilous economic times, also received special powers to intervene in the debt market when necessary.

Despite gaining in the prior session, the euro fell 0.41% against the U.S. dollar.

Lawmakers in Washington were still working on a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling while potentially cutting fiscal spending on Friday.  The Wall Street Journal reported that President Barack Obama and House Speak John Boehner were close to agreeing on a $3 trillion spending deal.

Energy markets modestly higher on Friday.  Light, sweet crude gained 74 cents, or 0.75%, to $99.87 a barrel.  Wholesale RBOB gasoline climbed 3 cents, or 0.99%, to $3.13 a gallon.

Prices at the pump are back on the rise.  A gallon of regular costs $3.70 on average nationwide, up from $3.63 last month, and well higher than the $2.72 drivers paid last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.

Gold jumped $14.50, or 0.91%, to $1,602 a troy ounce.  Silver soared $1.18, or 3%, to $40.12 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The English FTSE 100 rose 0.6% to 5,935, the French CAC 40 rose 0.68% to 3,843 and the German DAX gained 0.5% to 7,326.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 1.2% to 10,132 and the Chinese Hang Seng spiked 2.1% to 22,445.