Closing Market Report
Star-Bulletin news services

Tech shares climb
on ‘bullish’ report

NEW YORK » Falling oil prices and a broker upgrade of the semiconductor sector pushed stocks higher yesterday, enticing buyers back into the market after the previous session's losses.

Technology shares climbed as both J.P. Morgan Securities and Lehman Brothers upgraded the chip sector. Morgan cited "a more bullish view" of the industry. Technology shares have lagged as other stocks moved up last month, and investors greeted the news as a sign that the recovery was finally spreading to the tech sector.

A drop in oil prices helped feed buying in stocks, as investors hoped that crude futures would not pass $52 per barrel. Light, sweet crude for April delivery fell 7 cents to $51.68 a barrel.

"With oil lower, you're seeing the market move broader, moving out of energy stocks and into everything else," said Jay Suskind, head trader at Ryan Beck & Co. "Just across the board, there's a sense the market wants to move higher this spring."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 63.77, or 0.59 percent, to 10,830.00.

Broader stock indicators also closed higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 6.81, or 0.57 percent, at 1,210.41, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 19.53, or 0.95 percent, to 2,071.25.

Investors were disappointed with the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for February, which came in at 55.3, lower than the reading of 57 economists expected and down from January's 56.4. However, those fearing inflation could see the report as good news, since a slide in demand for industrial goods bodes well for lower prices.

Some investors awaited Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's testimony before the House Budget Committee today, hoping that the Fed chief's assessment of the economy will further boost stocks.

The dollar gained ground against the euro and other major currencies, with traders expecting Greenspan to argue for a stronger dollar before Congress. Gold prices fell, and bonds turned bearish toward the end of the session.

The chip sector upgrades boosted a number of individual semiconductor stocks. Dow component Intel Corp. rose 63 cents to $24.62, Texas Instruments Inc. was up 68 cents at $27.15 and National Semiconductor Corp. climbed 70 cents to $20.65.

Qwest Communications International Inc. continued to press its case for an $8 billion merger with MCI Inc. Qwest rose 15 cents to $4.05, while MCI gained 61 cents to $23.36; Verizon added 28 cents to $36.25.

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by Financials.com

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