Closing Market Report

Star-Bulletin news services Friday, January 9, 2004

Retail sales lift stocks

NEW YORK >> More signs of the improving business climate -- better-than-expected holiday sales and Nokia Corp.'s latest fourth-quarter outlook -- sent stocks moderately higher yesterday. The advance carried the Nasdaq composite index to its first close above 2,100 in 2 1/2 years.

The positive corporate news overshadowed a relatively poor reading on the job market, leading investors to put aside trepidation that had been building this week about today's report on employment, which could set the tone for sentiment about the economy in coming days.

"It seems that the good earnings news forced people into the market and overshadowed the jobless data," said Todd Clark, head of listed equity trading at Wells Fargo Securities.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was 2.65 billion shares, well above the 2.37 billion shares tallied the day before.

The Nasdaq advanced 22.57 or 1.1 percent, to 2,100.25, the first time it closed above 2,100 since July 3, 2001.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 63.41, or 0.6 percent, at 10,592.44, its highest close since March 2002. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.59, or 0.5 percent, to 1,131.92, its highest close since April 2002.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 5.00 or 0.9 percent, at 579.62.

The price of the Treasury's 10-year note closed down 3/32 point, while its yield rose to 4.25 percent from 4.24 percent Wednesday. Two-year Treasury note prices were unchanged but their yield rose to 1.82 percent from 1.81 percent Wednesday.

Major retailers gave a boost to market sentiment before the opening bell with a series of reports showing higher same-store sales in December, thanks to a late surge of holiday season spending.

TJX Cos., operator of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, rose 58 cents to $22.16 after reporting a 4 percent rise in same-store sales. The company said foreign exchange gains also bolstered its results.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. was up $1.21 at $46.19 after reporting sales that were down just 0.6 percent for its domestic business, a smaller decline than analysts had been expecting.

Telecommunications stocks advanced strongly on upbeat outlooks and a surprise announcement Finnish cell phone maker Nokia, which sharply raised its estimates for fourth quarter earnings.

Nokia surged $2.50 to $20.47 in heavy trading, and shares in other makers of telecommunications equipment were also higher.

That sector got another lift yesterday by an announcement from Verizon that it would invest $3 billion in networks over the next two years to bring broadband services to the mass market. Verizon was up 56 cents at $37.12.

Dow component Hewlett-Packard Co. rose $1.33 to $24.69 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the tech giant plans to list its shares on both the Nasdaq as well as the New York Stock Exchange.

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