Stocks mixed after S&P pierces record
NEW YORK » Wall Street reached another milestone during a muted session yesterday, when the Standard & Poor's 500 index briefly passed its record close of 1,527.46 for the first time in more than seven years.
The S&P 500, considered by market professionals the best indicator of stock performance, surpassed the mark shortly after noon following a fresh spate of takeover deals. The broad market index has lagged the Dow Jones industrial average in recovering from the prolonged stock slump earlier this decade.
The S&P 500 rose as high as 1,529.87, then edged back to 1,525.10, up 2.35, or 0.15 percent, as cautious investors locked in some profits from weeks of gains. The index's advance was driven by buying in non-technology sectors such as energy, materials, industrials and financials, S&P data showed. It is still well below its all-time trading high of 1,552.87 set on March 24, 2000, the day the index reached its record close.
Reassuring Wall Street yesterday that acquisition activity will keep up its record pace this year, General Electric Co. said it is selling its plastics division to Saudi Arabia's largest industrial company, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., for $11.6 billion.
The announcement followed news Sunday that telecommunications company Alltel Corp. agreed to be bought for $24.8 billion, and that China's upstart state investment company was investing $3 billion in Blackstone Group LP. Blackstone, the second-largest U.S. private equity firm, is planning an initial public offering for later this year.
The Dow retreated modestly after venturing further into record territory earlier in the day. The blue-chip index fell 13.65, or 0.10 percent, to 13,542.88 after hitting an intraday high of 13,586.03.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 20.34, or 0.80 percent, to 2,578.79, after reaching a six-year high of 2,587.87.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 1.51 billion shares, down from 1.65 billion Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 9.99, or 1.21 percent, to 833.65.
Bonds edged higher yesterday, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note slipping to 4.79 percent, down from 4.81 percent late Friday. The dollar gained against other major currencies, and gold prices also rose.
After two private equity firms said they were buying Alltel, the wireless company rose $4.39, or 6.7 percent, to $69.60.
General Electric rose 14 ce-nts to $37.10 after agreeing to sell its plastics business.
In other corporate news yesterday, drug developers Wyeth and Elan Corp. said they are planning late-stage studies for their Alzheimer's drug candidate bapineuzumab. Wyeth rose $2.03, or 3.6 percent, to $58.41, and Elan's U.S. shares rose $2.09, or 12.6 percent, to $18.69.
Meanwhile, home improvement goods retailer Lowe's Cos. reported a 12.1 percent drop in first-quarter profit and lowered its annual earnings forecast. Lowe's fell $1.03, or 3.2 percent, to $31.63.
In addition to the sluggish housing market, high energy prices remain a concern for investors; crude oil soared $1.33 to $66.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.