Despite the latest earnings cautions from major technology companies, stocks are expected to open slightly higher as government reports on retail sales figures and a key wholesale inflation index pointed to a more tempered slowdown. Though the data weren't as negative as many expected, investors continue to have high hopes that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates at the its next policy meeting.
Corporate bottom lines continue to be threatened by the cooling economy. Major technology names Hewlett-Packard (HWP) and Gateway (GTW) said after the market close Thursday that their earnings would fall short of analyst expectations. But optimistic investors did not head for the exits in after hours trading, continuing a pattern seen in recent sessions. The market has shrugged off recent earnings warnings from tech giants Nokia Corp. (NOK ), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO ) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO ).
On Thursday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index finished up 116.30 points, or 4.61%, at 2,640.48. The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average closed up 5.69 points, or 0.05%, at 10,609.96. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index ended higher by 13.58 points, or 1.03%, at 1,326.85.
Treasuries were lower following the most recent economic data on retail sales and producer price index for December that showed evidence of an overall slowdown, but not quite at a pace that will merit a giant interest slash from the Fed. The core components of the PPI rose 0.3% for the month. Economists had expected a lower rise of just 0.1%.
Retail sales meanwhile rose by 0.1%, while investors had expected a decrease of 0.2%. That figure excluding automobile sales was unchanged.
European markets were higher following yesterday’s tech-led rallies. The London Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index gained 42.10 points, or 0.69%, to 6,157.00. In Germany, the DAX Index was up 73.08 points, or 1.13%, at 6,538.29. Meanwhile, France's CAC 40 rose 100.09 points, or 1.76%, at 5,802.87.
The Asian markets finished the last day of the week up. Japan’s Nikkei finished at 13,347.74, up 1.11%, led by core high-tech issues such as Sony Corp and NEC Corp. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished up 204.65, or 1.36%, at 15295.42, with property issues leading the way after investment houses said expected interest rate cuts would help the sector.
By Amy Tsao in New York