business

Stocks End Week on Sour Note

One day after a powerful rally, major indexes sank as negative results from the likes of Costco and Maytag raised concerns about consumer spending

Stocks stumbled on Friday as disappointing earnings from consumer-oriented companies such as warehouse-club retailer Costco (COST ) and appliance maker Maytag (MYG ) gave investors an excuse to take profits from Thursday's big rally. Higher oil prices also worsened investor sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended lower by 60.89 points, or 0.60%, to 10,157.71. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 7.83 points, or 0.68%, to 1,152.12. The Nasdaq composite index eased 30.22 points, or 1.54%, to 1,932.19.

Looking ahead to next week, hundreds of companies are again set to report results. Among the highlights are franchise operator Cendant (CD ) and telephone company SBC (SBC ) on Monday, oil services outfit Schlumberger (SLB ), Hilton Hotels (HLT ), and American Express (AXP ), the financial services outfit on Tuesday.

Drilling services outfit Baker Hughes (BHI ) will report on Wednesday, oil major ExxonMobil (XOM ) will announce earnings on Thursday, and ChevronTexaco (CVX ) and radio broadcaster Clear Channel Communications (CCU ) will post results on Friday.

Next week will also bring a raft of economic data. On Monday, existing home sales figures for March are seen showing an increase to a 6.85 million annualized pace from 6.79 million. On Tuesday the Conference Board's consumer confidence gauge is expected to fall to 99.5 from 102.4 in March.

Orders for big ticket items are seen increasing by just 0.1% in March, vs. a 0.5% increase in the previous month. That report is due out on Wednesday. On Thursday, advance figures for first quarter gross domestic product are expected to show the U.S. economy slowed to a 3.1% growth pace from 3.8% in the previous quarter. Another consumer confidence report on Friday, this one from the University of Michigan, is also expected to show a fall in consumer confidence in April: to 87 from 88.7.

On Friday, the negative results from consumer products companies raised concerns that the U.S. consumer may be flagging. Costco forecast results for the third and fourth quarters below Wall Street's estimates, but increased its quarterly dividend to 11.5 cents from 10 cents. And Maytag posted sharply lower quarterly profit because of falling sales and rising costs.

Also a worry for the market were NYMEX June crude futures, which rose $1.19 to $55.39 a barrel, above Thursday's close of $54.20 a barrel. Gasoline, heating oil and natural gas futures are all near records, helping push oil prices even higher Friday, says Informa Global Markets.

On the plus side, Internet search outfit Google (GOOG ) posted a nearly sixfold increase in profits on revenue that about doubled.

Also in tech, wireless equipment maker Ericsson (ERICY ) posted 73% higher profits, helped by strong sales in Latin America and western Europe. However, the company gave a cautious full-year outlook.

NetFlix (NFLX ), the company that rents DVDs over the Internet, posted a loss due to higher marketing spending.

In exchange news, the Nasdaq Stock Market is expected to announce it is acquiring electronic share trading outfit Instinet (INGP ) from media company Reuters (RTRSY ). The New York Stock Exchange recently announced plans to acquire Archipelago (AX ).

Elswhere, forest products company International Paper (IP ) posted 5% higher profits as the company booked higher prices for its products in North America.

Oil services outfit Halliburton (HAL ) reported a profit vs. a loss from the year ago quarter thanks to stronger results in oil-field services and government-contracting units.

Meantime, biotech concern Amgen (AMGN ) posted profits that fell short of expectations but the company increased its forecast for the full year.

Flash data storage card maker Sandisk (SNDK ) reported revenue that missed expectations.

Eastman Kodak (EK ) reported a loss because of charges related to cost cuts but the company's revenues from sales of digital products rose 23%. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut Kodak's credit rating to BB+ from BBB- -- placing the company's debt below investment grade.

Telephone company Qwest Communications (Q ) sweetened its offer for MCI (MCIP ) to $9.9 billion. But Qwest said it was its "best and final offer" after being snubbed three times by MCI.

Treasury Market

Treasuries rose in price in the absence of significant economic data as equities dipped. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note fell to 4.25%.

World Markets

European stock markets closed higher on Friday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 29.70 points, or 0.62%, to 4,849.30 following a report that U.K. first quarter gross domestic product rose 0.6%, in line with expectations.

Germany's DAX index added 29.34 points, or 0.72%, to 4,223.04 in reaction to New York's late rally. Siemens was higher after Merrill Lynch raised its recommendation for the stock to buy from neutral.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index strengthened 29.16 points, or 0.74%, to 3,980.18. Cap Gemini was higher after Deutsche Bank added it to its "European Focus List."

Major Asian indexes closed higher on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 61.56 points, or 0.56%, to close at 11,045.95, tracking Wall Street's gain overnight. Ito-Yokado revised 0.6% up from Thursday's 11.3% slump on the retailer's share buy-back plan. Convenience store chain Seven-Eleven also gained 1.2% on a share buy-back move.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 96.24 points, or 0.71%, to close at 13,693.55. The top percentage gainer was CNOOC, up 3.0%, while the biggest loser was Yue Yuen, down 1.4%.

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