- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended an uneasy week mostly higher yesterday as a jury verdict against Merck & Co. over its painkiller Vioxx erased much of an earlier advance fueled by bargain hunting. The major indexes all suffered losses for the week.

Wall Street quickly pulled back late yesterday after a Texas court found Merck liable for the death of a man who took Vioxx, and awarded his estate more than $250 million in damages. Merck shares dropped $2.35, or 7.7 percent, to $28.06 at the close of trading.

The overall market still managed a small gain as bargain hunters took advantage of recent declines and bought up underperforming stocks. Positive analyst reports on Coca-Cola Inc. and International Business Machines Corp., as well as indications of continued growth in China from Caterpillar Inc., also encouraged investors.

The advance also held despite a jump in crude oil futures, which rose on news of demonstrations in Ecuador that have disrupted oil exports. A barrel of light crude surged $2.08 to settle at $65.35 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.30, or 0.04 percent, to close at 10,559.23.

Broader stock indicators finished mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 0.69, or 0.1 percent, to 1,219.71, while the Nasdaq composite index slipped 0.52, or 0.02 percent, to 2,135.56.

Bonds were even despite stocks rising, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note unchanged at 4.21 percent.

Trading was expected to be volatile during yesterday’s session on Wall Street due to the expiration of monthly futures contracts, which customarily prompts investors to make shifts in their holdings.

While stocks gave up some of their gains after the Merck verdict, the market’s reaction was nonetheless muted as investors had previously factored in major Vioxx liability into the drug maker’s stock. Pfizer Inc., whose painkillers Bextra and Celebrex are similar to Vioxx, fell 33 cents to $25.55, while Eli Lilly & Co. closed down 5 cents at $52.57.

Despite yesterday’s gain, stocks were pressured for much of the week by evidence of inflation brought on by higher energy costs, especially after the government’s inflation reports showed big jumps in wholesale and consumer prices during July. The Dow fell 0.39 percent for the week while the S&P; 500 lost 0.87 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 0.99 percent.

Wall Street has languished this month after rallying in July on strong corporate earnings and growth in the economy. Uncertainty about where the market is headed has had investors trading lightly as they grapple with the effects of soaring oil prices amid improved economic data and persistently low interest rates.

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