Lackluster week baffles investors

NEW YORK - Wall Street rose smartly in a quiet session Friday as investors adjusted positions ahead of a long holiday weekend and tried to determine whether a lackluster week presaged a departure from the market's months-long run-up or merely a temporary pause.

Stocks advanced after a pullback Thursday and as investors drew some optimism from the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.'s deal to acquire Sweden's OMX AB. But investors showed little reaction to the National Association of Realtors' report that sales of existing homes fell 2.6 percent in April to 5.99 million units, the slowest sales rate in almost four years.

Friday's gains followed four mostly negative sessions for the major stock market indexes. Given Wall Street's robust performance in recent months, a pullback in which investors consolidate gains wasn't unexpected.

However, the week began with a flourish that could have been seen as suggesting further gains: The Standard & Poor's 500 index traded above its record close for the first time in more than seven years.

But concerns over the continued strength of the market's run and comments from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan about the possibility of a sharp pullback in Chinese stocks left some investors unnerved.

"It's just a very, very wacky market," said Ted Aronson, a partner at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, referring to the overall mood on Wall Street. He contends the implications of a still-settling housing market are difficult to quantify and give him pause though he still is mostly bullish.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 66.15, or 0.49 percent, to 13,507.28. The Dow had fallen in the previous four sessions.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 8.22, or 0.55 percent, to 1,515.73, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 19.27, or 0.76 percent, to 2,557.19.

For the week, the Dow industrials lost 0.36 percent, the S&P 500 gave up 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.05 percent.

Bonds fell Friday following the housing data and as stocks regained lost ground. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.86 percent from 4.84 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose $1.02 to $65.20 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Stocks rose Friday in part after Nasdaq announced its $3.67 billion deal. The move gives the stock market entrance to Europe through OMX, which operates exchanges in seven Nordic countries. It will become the world's second trans-Atlantic exchange after the New York Stock Exchange bought Paris-based Euronext earlier this year.

Buyouts have given a boost to stocks for much of the year. This week alone saw about $32.3 billion in deals, according to TrimTabs. The market research group estimates the roughly $270 billion in corporate buyouts announced so far in the second quarter are on pace to handily top the record $302.5 billion registered in the first quarter.

Friday's gains came after Wall Street retreated Thursday following housing data that showed sales of single-family homes surged in April by the largest amount in 14 years but as prices fell sharply. While a resilient housing market would likely be good for the economy, it could also reduce the likelihood the Federal Reserve would reduce interest rates. On the Net:

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