Stocks Finish Higher

Oil remained above $50 as the major indexes recouped some of Tuesday's losses

Stocks finished higher Wednesday, after a lower-than-expected reading on a gauge of inflation at the consumer level helped spark a small rebound after Tuesday's plunge. But losses in the Internet software and chip sectors reined in further gains, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62.59 points, or 0.59%, to 10,673.79. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index added 6.64 points, or 0.56%, to 1,190.80. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.93 points, or 0.05%, to 2,031.25.

Crude oil futures settled 25 cents lower on Wednesday after Tuesday's surge. Oil traded at $51.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. January consumer price index (CPI) rose only 0.1%, after a 0.1% decline in December. Median estimates expected a gain of 0.2%. While this relieves some inflation worries, the economy is still facing inflation pressure that should remain in place for at least the first half of 2005, says Action Economics.

More economic reports are due later in the week. On Thursday, figures on January's durable goods orders are expected to show a 0.1% increase, after a 1.1% rise in December. On Friday, the preliminary reading of fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to rise 3.5%, up from the original estimate of 3.1%.

In earnings news Wednesday, Novell (NOVL ) announced first-quarter earnings of 90 cents, vs. 3 cents last year. The computer networking company posted 8.6% higher total revenues, but profits were flat after discounting money made from a legal settlement with Microsoft (MSFT ).

Home-improvement chain Lowe's (LOW ) posted fourth-quarter earnings of 64 cents, vs. 49 cents last year. Lowe's saw 6.9% higher same-store sales, and beat analysts' profit estimates.

Footwear marketer Skechers U.S.A. (SKX ) saw 18% higher total sales in the fourth quarter, posting earnings of 5 cents a share, vs. a 33 cent loss last year.

After the close Cablevision (CVC ) posted a fourth-quarter loss of $1.06, despite an 11% revenue rise. According to the Wall Street Journal, Cablevision may divvy up over $3 billion in jointly-held assets with News Corp. (NWS ).

Up ahead, apparel retailer Gap (GPS ) and entertainment group Viacom (VIA ) will both announce earnings after the close Thursday. Broadcaster Clear Channel Communications (CCU ) on Friday.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields ticked up after traders had a chance to review the minutes of the Feb. 1 FOMC meeting. While the minutes suggested some upside inflation risk, there was nothing very surprising, says Action Economics. The yield on the 10-year note traded at 4.26%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished lower Wednesday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 fell 50.25 points, or 1.00%, to 4,982.60.

Germany's DAX index fell 12.55 points, or 0.29%, to 4,310.66.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 25.14 points, or 0.63%, to 3,977.19.

Asian markets closed lower Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei-225 index fell 97.53 points, or 0.84%, to close at 11,500.18. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index dropped 132.58 points, or 0.94%, to 13,957.94.

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