Sun, Mar 10, 2002 - Page 10 News List

Intel and Microsoft shares advance

US EQUITIES With the unemployment rate declining last month, investors began to feel a little more upbeat about the overall prospects for American stocks this year


US stocks rose after a report showing the economy added jobs for the first time in seven months fueled confidence in an earnings rebound.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished higher for a fourth week, its longest winning streak since May.

"Employment was the missing piece of the puzzle," said Richard Sichel, who oversees US$600 million as chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co. He expects companies will start raising profit forecasts "in a few weeks."

He is buying Wells Fargo & Co and American Home Products Corp shares.

International Business Machines Corp, Microsoft Corp and Intel Corp accounted for more than half the Dow's gain after Merrill Lynch & Co advised investors to buy technology shares.

The NASDAQ Composite Index rose 48.04, or 2.6 percent, to 1,929.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed 6.77, or 0.6 percent, to 1,164.31. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 47.12, or 0.5 percent, to 10,572.49.

The Dow gained 2 percent for the week, extending its year-to-date advance to 5.5 percent. The S&P 500 rallied 2.9 percent, erasing the benchmark's loss for the year.

The NASDAQ rose 7 percent, paring its year-to-date decline to 1.1 percent. It was down 12 percent as recently as two weeks ago.

The US stopped losing jobs in February, the Labor Department reported. Payrolls rose by 66,000, after dropping 126,000 in January and 106,000 in December. Unemployment fell to 5.5 percent from 5.6 percent.

The data came a day after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress a recovery is "well under way."

Treasuries dropped for a seventh day, the longest slide in almost a decade for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, on concern inflation may quicken as demand recovers. The yield on the 10-year note rose 10 basis points to 5.32 percent. Bond prices fall as yields rise.

"It's tough to argue against" an economic rebound, said Joe Balestrino, whose US$290 million Federated Stock and Bond Fund this week shifted money to stocks from bonds for the first time in two years. "We are bottoming right now from a corporate earnings perspective and have already bottomed from an economic perspective."

About 1.4 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, 3.2 percent more than the three-month daily average.

Advancing and declining stocks were about even on the Big Board, while almost two rose for every one that fell on the NASDAQ Stock Market.

Sun Microsystems, whose server computers run corporate networks and Web sites, gained US$1.17 to US$10. The company reiterated forecasts that fiscal third-quarter revenue will rise "slightly" from last quarter's US$3.11 billion.

IBM, the biggest computer maker, gained US$1.38 to US$105.09.

Cisco Systems Inc., the largest maker of equipment to direct Internet traffic, gained US$0.80 to US$17.80. Intel, the biggest chipmaker, rose US$1.19 to US$34.17.

Microsoft led software companies higher. The biggest software maker rose US$1.23 to US$63.95, Oracle Corp advanced US$0.20 to US$14.20 and Veritas Software Corp rose US$1.26 to US$44.41.

Merrill strategist Steven Milunovich reversed a call he made two months ago that technology stocks were too expensive and should be avoided. Today, he said "increasing signs of a bottom" in technology businesses and reports showing improvement in the overall economy have changed investor sentiment.

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