- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street turned in a mixed performance yesterday as Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment rattled investors and tempered a tech rally spurred by a strong outlook from chip maker Analog Devices Inc.

Investors were uneasy after a U.N. official said Iran did not agree to Security Council demands to suspend its nuclear ambitions. Also hurting stocks was a U.S. government report that showed a larger-than-expected drop in gasoline and heating oil inventories, causing crude prices to bound above $60 a barrel.

This chilled the mood among investors who at first were encouraged by upbeat corporate announcements and a rally in foreign stock markets. Strength among semiconductor stocks drove the Nasdaq Composite Index to six-year highs.

Analog Devices, which gave an optimistic outlook about improving business conditions, drove chip stocks. Investors were also encouraged about takeover activity this year as Whole Foods Market said it will buy rival Wild Oats Markets for $565 million.

“With the lack of real market-moving news, traders are taking a look at the Iran thing and the technical breakdowns and we’re seeing a little bit of a pause on that,” said Jody Giraldo, vice president of equities at VFinance.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 52.39, or 0.41 percent, to 12,686.02.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 1.25, or 0.09 percent, at 1,456.38. The Nasdaq rose 6.52, or 0.26 percent, to 2,524.94; the tech-dominated index is at a six-year high and finished past the 2,524.31 halfway mark of its high of 5,048.62 set on March 10, 2000.

The Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies rose 2.11, or 0.26 percent, to 829.44.

Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed up 1.09 percent, making its first foray above 18,000 in nearly seven years; investors were cheered by the Bank of Japan’s decision to raise interest rates, indicating its confidence in the long-flagging Japanese economy. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.37 percent, Germany’s DAX index was up 0.46 percent.

Oil rose in an erratic session after the Energy Department reported increased demand for crude-based products. A barrel of light sweet crude rose to a seven-week high, up 88 cents at $60.95 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Apple Inc. rose 31 cents to $89.51 after a deal with Cisco Systems Inc. will allow it to use the IPhone name when it rolls out the new mobile telephone that allows users to play music. Cisco rose 2 cents to $27.40.

Analog Devices said there are improving trends in some of its business segments. Shares surged $3.48, or 10.4 percent, to $36.80.

Google Inc. made a direct challenge to Microsoft Inc.’s Office brand of business computer programs, starting to sell its own suite of Web-based products for word processing, e-mail, spreadsheets and other programs. Google fell 1 cent to $475.85, while Microsoft rose 4 cents to $29.39.

Whole Foods jumped $6.41, or 14 percent, to $52.11 after it backed its forecast for same-store sales growth between 6 percent and 8 percent. The company, which also disclosed its acquisition of Wild Oats, received a number of analyst upgrades.

Wild Oats share rose $2.69, or 17.1 percent, to $18.41.

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