- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finished a quiet session little changed yesterday as investors’ anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates muted their reaction to lower oil prices and a trio of acquisitions.

With no new reports to offer clues about the economy, investors traded cautiously ahead of the Fed’s latest move on interest rates when policy-makers meet tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the market showed some excitement over Wachovia’s $25 billion takeover of Golden West Financial Corp. and Thermo’s $10.6 billion offer for Fisher Scientific International Inc. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. also made its first acquisition of an overseas company.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6.80, or 0.06 percent, to 11,584.54, its highest close in more than six years. The Dow is 138 points from its all-time high of 11,722.98, reached on Jan. 14, 2000.

Broader stock indicators stood near their highs from February 2001. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.10, or 0.08 percent, to 1,324.66, and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 2.42, or 0.1 percent, to 2,344.99.

The interest rate debate weighed on the dollar and bonds, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticking up to 5.12 percent from 5.11 percent late Friday. The U.S. dollar plunged against the Japanese yen and was slightly lower versus European currencies.

While most believe the central bank will raise the nation’s key lending rate to 5 percent tomorrow, investors will be scouring the Fed’s policy statement for signs of whether more increases are coming.

Still, investors have been impressed by the economy’s strength despite surging energy costs and the Fed’s mission to stifle inflation by gradually raising short-term interest rates.

Enthusiasm over solid corporate earnings growth — companies in the S&P; 500 index have averaged double-digit gains for 15 consecutive quarters — have carried stocks sharply higher so far this year.

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