Stocks Finish Mixed

Major U.S. stock indexes finished mixed Friday in a session marked by the so-called "quadruple witching" -- the quarterly expiration of options and futures contracts.

The Nasdaq composite index was the clear outperformer among the major market benchmarks Friday, up more than 1%, amid strength in tech stocks, driven by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Apple Inc. (AAPL), and Dell Inc. (DELL).

Weakness in Chevron (CVX),Exxon Mobil (XOM), Caterpillar (CAT), and Boeing (BA) kept the Dow industrials in the loss column and limited gains in the S&P 500.

On Friday, the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average finished lower by 15.87 points, or 0.19%, at 8,539.73. The broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 2.82 points, or 0.31%, to 921.19. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 19.75 points, or 1.09%, to 1,827.47.

Treasuries ended higher in price Friday. A Bloomberg headline said that California was put on watch for a ratings downgrade by Moody's, which could affect some $72 billion in debt. Kansas City Fed President Hoenig said in a speech Friday that inflation remains a longer-term risk.

The dollar index was down. Gold futures were marginally higher and oil futures were sharply lower amid demand concerns.

European markets advanced Friday amid reports the European Union plans to create a super-regulator for the financial sector. London stocks rose 1.52%, Paris stocks gained 0.85%, and Frankfurt stocks were up 0.04%.

Asian markets also climbed. Tokyo stocks rose 0.85%, Hong Kong stocks were up 0.81%, and Shanghai stocks climbed 0.93%.

The main event for the markets in the coming week will be the Federal Reserve's policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, after which it will attempt to communicate its policy leaning on a number of issues in its statement, due at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

Overall, the debate over the Fed's "exit strategy" should be a lively one, but risk of any rate hike signals still likely premature, according to Action Economics.

In addition to a fairly full data calendar, traders were also looking ahead to the Treasury's auction of $104 billion in notes next week.

Among companies in the news Friday, Research in Motion posted first-quarter earnings per share under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) of $1.12, vs. $0.84 one year earlier, on a 53% revenue rise. The maker of BlackBerry handheld devices posted adjusted first-quarter EPS of $0.98. RIM sees seconbd-quarter revenue of $3.45 billion-$3.70 billion and EPS of $0.94-$1.03. The company's guidance was seen as disappointing, according to S&P MarketScope.

Sealy Corp. (ZZ) provided a preliminary second-quarter forecast in which it expects sales of $294 million-$301 million, income from operations of $28 million-$30 million, with the higher end of the revenue estimate reportedly above Street forecasts, and income from operations well above the Street consensus. The mattress maker said its comprehensive refinancing plan, which was announced on May 13, 2009, is expected to be completed in July, 2009. Following completion of refinancing, Sealy does not intend to provide preliminary information relating to its financial results for future periods.

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