Closing Market Report
Star-Bulletin news services

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Nasdaq index posts
eighth straight gain

NEW YORK » Stocks finished narrowly mixed yesterday as investors took the opportunity to lock in profits and drew comfort from the Federal Reserve's benign take on inflation. Tech stocks continued to rally, with the Nasdaq composite index posting its eighth straight gain.

Wall Street had eagerly anticipated the minutes from the Fed's May 3 meeting, hoping for a clearer picture of the strength of the economy and the prospects for inflation. In the minutes, the Fed noted a risk of inflation as well as an economic slowdown, but said that those pressures remained in check and that interest rates could be increased slowly.

Recent economic data, however, showed a moderation in prices and inflation risk, as well as increased strength in the economy. But since higher interest rates serve to moderate growth as well as stem inflation, the Fed made the right call, said Lincoln Anderson, chief investment officer at LPL Financial Services.

"The Fed got it right, but for the wrong reasons," Anderson said. "But they should be (raising rates) anyway. The economy seems pretty strong right now, and the Fed is moving on rates at what seems to be a good pace. And that's good for the market."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 19.88, or 0.19 percent, to 10,503.68.

Broader stock indicators edged higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 0.21, or 0.02 percent, at 1,194.07, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 4.97, or 0.24 percent, to 2,061.62.

Crude oil futures rose as investors digested mixed signals from OPEC regarding crude production. A barrel of light crude settled at $49.67, up 51 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bonds continued their recent rally, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.03 percent from 4.06 percent late Monday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

In economic news, the National Association of Realtors reported a 4.5 percent increase in existing home sales, which rose to an annualized rate 7.18 million homes in April, compared to 6.87 million in March. Analysts had expected a more modest rate of 6.9 million. Home prices rose 15.1 percent year-over-year, raising concerns that the housing market "bubble" may eventually burst as more people are unable to afford homes.

But despite the economic data and the Fed minutes -- with the accompanying worries over future interest rate hikes -- the stock market remained surprisingly resilient, analysts said.

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by Financials.com

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