Saturday, July 16, 2011

Google lifts Wall St in otherwise rough week

NEW YORK: Google's blowout quarter led the Nasdaq higher on Friday, July 15 but mounting uncertainty about the government's ability to reach a debt-reduction deal may keep investors at bay in the coming week.

The gains were a bright spot in a stretch dominated by selling that pushed the S&P 500 down in its worst week in five. Worries about U.S. and European government debt troubles put pressure on the market even as investors expect a batch of strong earnings next week.

For the week, the S&P 500 ended down 2.1 percent, while the Dow lost 1.4 percent and the Nasdaq fell 2.5 percent.

The stock market has largely ignored the acrimonious debate in Washington about raising the debt ceiling, which is necessary to avoid a default. But investors say it is dampening enthusiasm even as most express confidence a deal will be reached.

"We're drifting and waiting for clarity on all these different issues," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

"Each day, the deck chairs get slightly rearranged," he said. "We saw the market react to President Obama's news conference where he continued to provide more detail on progress or lack of progress on negotiations. We saw the market sell off and then bounce back."

U.S. President Barack Obama held a White House news conference on Friday on the talks. Standard & Poor's warned late on Thursday that there is a one-in-two chance it could cut the United States' triple-A rating if an agreement is not reached soon.

Google Inc's (GOOG.O) earnings beat the most bullish forecasts late on Thursday, driving its stock up 13 percent to $597.62, making it the top gainer in the Nasdaq 100. The S&P information TECHNOLOGY [] index .GSPT rose 1.6 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 42.61 points, or 0.34 percent, to end at 12,479.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX gained 7.27 points, or 0.56 percent, to finish at 1,316.14. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC advanced 27.13 points, or 0.98 percent, to close at 2,789.80.

The CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, Wall Street's fear gauge, ended down 6.1 percent at 19.53.

The European Banking Authority (EBA) said that of the 90 European banks tested, only eight had failed the "stress tests" performed to determine if they could withstand a long recession. Expectations were for up to 15 banks to fall short. For story, see [ID:nL6E7IF19G]

"The positive is, we're moving towards increased transparency," said Paul Ehrlichman, head of global equity at Global Currents in Wilmington, Delaware. "The bank stress tests, if they continue to do them, will reveal more about the weak parts of the banks' balance sheets."

Energy was a big mover on BHP Billiton's (BBL.N) (BLT.L) $12 billion offer to purchase Petrohawk (HK.N). Shares of Petrohawk jumped 62.5 percent to $38.17. The Select Sector Energy SPDR Fund (XLE.P), an exchange-traded fund, rose 2.6 percent to $76.86.

Consumer discretionary stocks were among the biggest drags after U.S. consumer sentiment hit its lowest level since March 2009. Home Depot (HD.N) fell 0.1 percent to $35.91.

Investor Carl Icahn's offer to buy Clorox Co (CLX.N) for $10.2 billion pushed the consumer products company's stock up 8.9 percent to $74.55.

Citigroup Inc (C.N) posted higher net income, helped by falling credit losses. But the stock dropped 1.6 percent to close at $38.38.

Volume was light, with about 7.12 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year's daily average of 8.47 billion. - Reuters

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