Tech stocks help indexes post gains

NEW YORK - Wall Street closed out a bumpy week with a moderate advance Friday as tech stocks charged higher on takeover news and other sectors gained on data that indicated the economy is expanding at a healthy pace. The major indexes managed to post gains for the week.

Oracle Corp.'s bid for BEA Systems Inc. helped prop up technology stocks, and gave investors renewed hope that acquisition activity is picking up again after the uncertainty of the summer's credit crisis. Corporate news also boosted some blue chip names: McDonald's Corp. posted higher-than-expected sales and General Motors Corp. said sales in its Latin America, Africa and Middle East region jumped in the third quarter.

Amid the economic data Wall Street mined Friday for signals about the health of the economy, the government reported that retail sales showed a stronger-than-expected gain last month and that wholesale prices jumped in September amid an increase in food and energy costs. Business inventories increased, while consumer sentiment slipped.

"The data seemed to reinforce that the economy is slowing, but perhaps not as precipitously as feared. And that may put the Fed on hold in October," said Derrick Wulf, portfolio manager at Dwight Asset Management Company. He was referring to the next interest-rate decision by Federal Reserve policymakers, who are scheduled to meet Oct. 30-31.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 77.96, or 0.56 percent, to 14,093.08.

Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.39, or 0.48 percent, to 1,561.80. The tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index rose 33.48, or 1.21 percent, to 2,805.68.

The move higher comes a day after a rally fizzled on Wall Street on concerns about price risks and lowered expectations for the Chinese Internet company Wall Street's advance on Friday helped lift the major indexes to finish the week in positive territory - the Dow was up 0.19 percent; the S&P 500 rose 0.27 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.91 percent.

Bonds were slightly lower as fixed-income investors held their positions ahead of the weekend. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to the price, was up at 4.68 percent from 4.66 percent late Thursday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Light, sweet crude rose 61 cents to $83.69 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil futures moved above $84 per barrel to a fresh trading and settled at a record as well amid concerns that supplies won't meet demand in the fourth quarter.

Economic readings appeared to give a boost to stocks. The Commerce Department report that retail sales rose 0.6 percent in September from August was double the growth economists had been expecting. The report came a day after many national retailers reported seeing sluggish demand in September.

The Labor Department said wholesale prices rose 1.1 percent in September. Excluding often volatile categories of food and energy, wholesale prices edged up by a moderate 0.1 percent.

Inventories held by businesses on shelves and backlots rose 0.1 percent in August, less than the 0.3 percent gain analysts had been expecting.

Consumer sentiment fell in October, according to the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading for mid-October.

Robert Streed, portfolio manager of Northern Trust Select Equity Fund in Chicago, said another reason behind Tuesday's drive higher is renewed optimism about corporate acquisitions. An increase in deals would "inject cash into the system" and push equities higher, he said.

"This is psychologically important because it shows insiders see value in acquiring companies," Streed said. "It also injects cash into the system."

Oracle, the business software maker, confirmed it offered to buy BEA Systems for more than $6.66 billion. Oracle said it sent a letter to the software maker's board offering $17 per share, a 25 percent premium over Thursday's closing price of $13.62. BEA surged $5.20, or 38 percent, to $18.82, while Oracle fell 2 cents to $22.44.

In other corporate news, McDonald's said its global same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, rose a stronger-than-expected 5.9 percent in September. The nation's No. 1 hamburger chain also forecast earnings for the quarter well ahead of Wall Street expectations. McDonald's rose 77 cents to $57.02.

GM rose $2.65, or 6.6 percent, to $42.64 after posting a 22 percent increase in sales in regions such as Latin America. The move comes after GM shares jumped Thursday following a decision by union members to ratify a new contract with the automaker.

GE's third-quarter earnings rose 14 percent as its energy and transportation businesses did well. Many investors regard GE as a bellwether for the U.S. economy because of the conglomerate's array of businesses - from finance to engines to NBC Universal. GE fell 57 cents to $41.03.

Citigroup Inc., which like McDonald's and GE is one of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow industrials, fell 45 cents to $47.87 after announcing it would combine its investment banking and alternative investments divisions into a single business run by a former Morgan Stanley executive. Vikram Pandit, who has been in charge of Citi's alternative investments unit since joining the company earlier this year, will lead the new Institutional Clients Group.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.06 billion shares, compared to 1.52 billion on Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 6.19, or 0.74 percent, to 841.17.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 0.73 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.09 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.09 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.32 percent. Tech stocks help indexes post gains