Tech Giants Fling Dow Higher, S&P Rises Slightly

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The Dow zipped higher as several technology blue chips rallied, while the broader S&P 500 edged higher. Both stock-market averages closed out the week on a four-day winning streak.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 96.5 points, or 0.76%, to 12720, the S&P 500 gained 0.88 point, or 0.07%, to 1315 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 1.6 points, or 0.06%, to 2787.

For the week, the Nasdaq jumped 2.8%, the Dow climbed 2.4%, and the S&P 500 climbed 2%. Gains have been strong so far for the year as well, with the Dow and S&P climbing more than 4% and the Nasdaq zooming close to 7% to the upside.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), IBM (NASDAQ:IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) all topped profit expectations when they posted their results after the closing bell on Thursday, sending their shares sharply higher on the day. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) got a powerful tailwind from its fellow titans in the technology realm.

Indeed, the four technology giants combined were responsible for nearly 87 points of the Dow's upswing, with IBM adding 60 points in its own.

Two big-name companies, however, failed to impress with their fourth-quarter results.

General Electric (NYSE:GE), the U.S. conglomerate and Dow component, posted a per-share operating profit of 39 cents that topped expectations by a penny, but its $38 billion in revenue came in short of the $40 billion analysts forecast.

Search behemoth Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) missed Wall Street's view on the top and bottom lines when it unveiled its results after the closing bell on Thursday. The Mountain View-based company's shares plunged, leading it to be the worst laggard out of the components on the Nasdaq 100 index of non-financial companies. Other smaller technology names such as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) posted a weak performance as well.

Greece Still in Focus

Market participants were also keeping a close eye on negotiations between the Greek government and private creditors that are in their third day. Part of the country's rescue package from the European Union hinges on private bondholders taking a loss, something that has been agreed to in principle. The talks are now focused on the technical side of the so-called bond swap deal, in which some holders of Greek debt will voluntarily accept new bonds with different maturities and coupon payments.

However, if the talks fall through, the country may be forced to either push for an involuntary arrangement or risk losing its much-needed bailout tranche. Either case could trigger default conditions on debt insurance or cause an actual default, both of which could slam Europe's banks and financial system, analysts have said. The country's next major debt payment is slated for March.

The euro slumped 0.39% to $1.2919 following a three-day winning streak. The greenback was recently up 0.33% against a basket of six world currencies.

Energy Prices Slump

Energy futures were sharply lower. The benchmark crude oil contract fell $2.19, or 2.2%, to $98.20 a barrel. Oil prices have been weak over the past three sessions as traders have trimmed down expectations for the risk posed by terse relations between Iran and the U.S. over that Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, Olivier Jakob, Managing Director at Swiss-based Petromatrix, wrote in a note to clients on Friday.

Wholesale RBOB gasoline slid 1.1% to $2.784 a gallon. In metals, gold climbed $9.60, or 0.58%, to $1,664 a troy ounce.

On the economic front, U.S. existing home sales rose 5% in December to an annualized rate of 4.61 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists expected a 4.1% increase to 4.65 million . The housing sector has struggled with high supplies, still tepid demand and tight conditions in lending markets.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.33%, the English FTSE 100 slumped 0.22% to 5,729 and the German DAX fell 0.18% to 6,404.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.5% to 8,766 and the Chinese Hang Seng climbed 0.84% to 20,110.

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