US stocks end higher after Oracle earnings
Investors drew confidence from strong results at Oracle Corp. and a continued sense that lower interest rates should help bolster the economy.
SHARES WALL STREET US stocks rose soundly Friday, capping a strong week for Wall Street, as investors drew confidence from strong results at Oracle Corp. and a continued sense that lower interest rates should help bolster the economy. Oracle's report that quarterly profits rose 25 percent as sales grew at their fastest pace in seven years offered fresh evidence that some sectors of the economy continue to hum along even as areas such as housing cause consternation for many investors. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 53.49, or 0.39%, to 13,820.19. Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 7.00, or 0.46%, to 1,525.75, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 16.93, or 0.64%, to 2,671.22. For the week, the Dow was up 2.8%, while the S&P 500 index added 2.8%. It was the strongest weekly showing for the indexes since March. Nasdaq rose 2.7%, its best weekly gain since last month. Friday's session brought "triple-witching," a once-a-quarter occurrence when investors face simultaneous expiration of contracts for stock index futures, index options and stock options. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 3.67 billion shares, compared with 2.96 billion shares traded Thursday. Oracle rose 93 cents, or 4.4%, to $21.98 following its earnings report. Meanwhile, cosmetics maker Estee Lauder Cos. advanced $1.95, or 4.8%, to $42.58 amid takeover rumors. EUROPE Stocks edged upwards, led by automobile and oil stocks as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and ABN Amro reiterated their positive stance on equities. The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index rose 0.5% to close at 376.8. The UK's FTSE 100 Index added 0.4% to close at 6,456.70, while France's CAC-40 Index gained 0.2% at 5,700.7. Germany's DAX Index gained 0.8%, closing at 7,794.4. Italy's Fiat and France's Renault rose 4.7% and 4.2%, respectively. Despite financial stocks ending the week lower overall, the UK's Northern Rock bucked the trend closing 4.9% higher at 194.30 pence following RAB Capital's decision to raise its stake in the mortgage bank to 6% Thursday and speculation surrounding potential predators. ASIA Markets were mixed, with Hong Kong and Indian stocks rising to fresh record closes while Taiwan shares ended at a six-week high. Some markets fell as investors took profit from sharp gains earlier in the week on Tuesday's larger-than-expected cut in the key US interest rate. Shares rose in Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand. Stocks fell in Australia, China, Malaysia and Singapore. In Japan, investors took profit ahead of a three-day weekend and sold consumer finance shares on renewed concerns for the troubled sector after a Mitsubishi UJF subsidiary downgraded its earnings outlook. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index shed 0.62% to close at 16,312.61 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Japan's financial markets will be closed Monday for Autumnal Equinox day, a national holiday. CURRENCY The dollar hit a new low against the seemingly unstoppable euro Friday as the 13-nation currency broke through $1.41. The euro's ascension renewed calls from French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the European Central Bank to follow the US Federal Reserve and cut interest rates, which would help keep French exports competitive. Despite the worries of some exporters - European aircraft maker Airbus said if the euro keeps rising it may have to seek new cost savings - ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood firm that the ECB must remain independent. The US dollar fell further against the Canadian dollar after reaching parity for the first time since 1976 on Thursday. One Canadian dollar bought $1.0068 in US currency at its highest point Friday before edging down to 99.95 US cents in late New York trading, barely beating 99.93 US cents late Thursday. The Canadian dollar has experienced a summer of record highs on soaring crude prices and a strong economy. Retail prices, however, have yet to adjust, according to an economist at one of Canada's large banks. Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at the Bank of Montreal, released a study Friday that indicates Canadians are paying roughly 24% more than Americans on identical goods despite parity in the US and Canadian dollars. In other trading, the dollar slid to $2.0200 against the British pound from $2.0099 late Thursday. It rose against the Japanese currency to 115.39 yen from 114.44 yen. COMMODITIES Gold prices fell Friday from 27-year highs, while oil prices slipped. At the market close, December gold shed $1 to settle at $738.90 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while crude oil for November delivery dipped 16 cents to settle at $81.62 a barrel.
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