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Stocks see signs of Santa
Major gauges post early rise as investors hope for traditional year-end 'Santa Claus' rally.
December 22, 2005: 9:58 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Stocks rose modestly Thursday morning after several better-than-expected earnings reports in the technology sector and a government consumer spending reading that showed inflation under control.

The Dow Jones industrial average (Charts) and the broader S&P 500 index (Charts) both added nearly 0.2 percent in the early going.

The Nasdaq composite (Charts) posted a similar increase.

Stocks ended a four-day slide and posted modest gains Wednesday, although the major gauges retreated from their highs in the last two hours of trading.

So far this year, the Dow is up about 1 percent, the S&P is up 4 percent and Nasdaq has gained 2.5 percent.

Among stock movers, shares of Red Hat (up $0.61 to $27.17, Research) rose 2 percent after the Linux software distributor reported sales above Wall Street's estimates.

Research in Motion (up $3.35 to $65.11, Research) posted better-than-expected profit, sending shares of the Blackberry maker up 5 percent.

But shares of ConAgra Foods (down $0.22 to $20.72, Research) slumped over 3 percent after the company posted a 32 percent drop in second-quarter profit on disappointing sales and higher fuel costs.

Bed Bath & Beyond (down $4.57 to $36.67, Research) said third-quarter profit rose 10.4 percent, but its sales fell short of Wall Street expectations and it provided a disappointing outlook for its fourth quarter. The shares tumbled about 11 percent.

Light sweet crude oil for February delivery rose 30 cents to $58.86 a barrel in electronic trading.

Consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in November but a big drop in energy costs and scant inflation elsewhere boosted shoppers' buying power even more sharply, the Commerce Department said.

The report contained what was considered a tame reading on inflationary pressures on prices. Weekly jobless claims fell more than forecasts.

Treasury prices gained following the economic reports, lowering the yield on the 10-year note to 4.45 percent from 4.49 percent late Wednesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The dollar fell versus the euro and yen.

COMEX gold for February delivery rose $3.60 to $498.90 an ounce.

In global trade, major Asian markets closed lower Thursday, and European markets were mostly higher at midday.  Top of page

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