US stock drifting higher in afternoon trading
(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Stocks held on to slight gains in afternoon trading Friday, moving closer to finishing in positive territory for the week. On a light day for economic data, investors focused on individual stocks in the news. CarMax shares vaulted after the auto dealership operator reported strong quarterly earnings growth, while Darden and Oracle slumped.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,961 as of 2:19 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,954. The Nasdaq composite added two points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,361.
THE QUOTE: Drew Wilson, equity analyst with Fenimore Asset Management, said the market appears to be shrugging off worries about geopolitical concerns in Iraq and Ukraine, focusing instead on specific company performance.
"It's mostly been this tug-of-war of companies in the indexes," Wilson said. "It's this daily churn, which is one of the reason we have such low volatility."
NEW HIGHS: The S&P 500 index notched an all-time high for the second day in a row Thursday. The index is up 6.1 percent this year and on track to gain 1.3 percent for the week. The Dow hovered at around 50 points below 17,000. More than half of the 30 companies in the index were rising in afternoon trading, led by Caterpillar, which rose $1.73, or 1.6 percent, to $108.98.
SECTOR VIEW: Five of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index were moving higher, led by energy stocks. Consumer discretionary stocks fell the most.
SMOOTH RIDE: CarMax vaulted 17 percent after the used car dealership operator reported a 16 percent jump in first-quarter earnings, easily beating Wall Street estimates. The stock gained $7.72 to $53. Shares in rival AutoNation rose $1.68, or 3 percent, to $58.19.
PRESCRIBING GAINS: A group of drugmakers were among the leading risers in the S&P 500. Eli Lilly added $2.09, or 3.5 percent, to $61.94, while Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose $5.88, or 3.7 percent, to $165.56. Amgen was up $2.53, or 2.1 percent, to $120.38.
BAD SIGNAL: RadioShack plunged 9.7 percent, falling below $1 per share for the first time. The electronics retailer has struggled to turn around its business, hurt by declining revenue. The stock shed 10 cents to 93 cents.
DISAPPOINTS: Oracle sank 4.1 percent after the software maker reported disappointing quarterly earnings late Thursday. One financial analyst covering the company, Citigroup's Walter Pritchard, stripped Oracle of his "buy" rating and reduced his price target on the stock to $41 from $44. Oracle's shares slumped $1.75 to $40.76.
MISSED: Darden Restaurants said its quarterly profit plunged 35 percent, dragged down by charges tied to its plan to overhaul its business. The company plans to sell its Red Lobster restaurants to the investment firm Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion. The quarterly results fell short of analysts' forecasts, and Darden's shares tumbled $1.51, or 3 percent, to $48.02.
PRICIER JOE: Starbucks shed nearly 1 percent after the chain announced plans to raise prices on some of its drinks and the packaged coffee it sells in supermarkets. Starbucks increased prices on some of its drinks a year ago. The stock fell 62 cents to $76.56.
REHOLSTERING: Fears about new firearms restrictions helped spur sales for Smith & Wesson, but the firearms manufacturer says it expects that wave of demand to begin to wane, leading to lower sales. The stock fell $1.65, or 9.7 percent, to $15.35.
BONDS: U.S. government bonds prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.62 percent.
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