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Stocks shrug off Fed
Major indexes rise for third session after Fed raises rates another quarter point, keeps 'measured.'
February 2, 2005: 5:48 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Stocks finished higher for the third straight session Wednesday as investors yawned at the Fed's widely expected quarter-point rate hike.

This was the Fed's sixth rate hike since June and brought the central bank's target for the Fed funds rate, a key overnight bank lending rate, to 2.5 percent.

"It was pretty much a non-event and it was designed to be by the Fed," said John Davidson, president and CEO of PartnersRe Asset Management.

The Dow Jones industrial average (up 44.85 to 10,596.79, Charts) rose 0.4 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index (up 3.78 to 1,193.19, Charts) added about 0.3 percent. The Nasdaq composite (up 6.36 to 2,075.06, Charts) posted similar gains.

Investors had been expecting an increase and were reassured somewhat after the Fed kept intact its language that the pace of future rate hikes would be "measured."

"Literally, the only word that changed was the word 'earlier' before energy prices," Davidson added.

Trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq picked up modestly after the central bank's announcement. And market breadth eased into positive territory. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners beat losers 5-3 as 1.58 billion shares traded hands. On the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners roughly 9-7 on volume of 1.96 billion shares.

Wednesday's movers

Stocks racked up solid gains in the previous two sessions on the back of solid earnings news, a trend that continued into Wednesday.

Google (up $14.06 to $205.96, Research) reported strong increases in sales and earnings for the fourth quarter late Tuesday afternoon, surpassing even the most bullish projections of Wall Street analysts.

Its shares surged 7 percent, with rivals Mamma (up $0.22 to $4.78, Research) advancing nearly 5 percent and Yahoo (up $0.79 to $35.54, Research) adding on more than 2 percent.

The Dow received a small lift from Boeing. Steep charges cut into the aerospace titan's fourth-quarter results, but its profit trumped year-earlier results and beat consensus estimates.

Boeing (up $1.19 to $52.23, Research) shares edged 2 percent higher.

Pfizer (up $0.21 to $24.07, Research) picked up nearly 1 percent on news of a licensing deal with German drugmaker Schering. Separately, Pfizer released a statement Tuesday refuting claims by advocacy group Public Citizen that the pharmaceuticals firm withheld data from a 1999 Celebrex study in Alzheimer's patients.

A handful of drug stocks picked up some steam, with Schering (up $1.43 to $68.63, Research) and Merck (up $0.63 to $28.46, Research) gaining 2 percent.

Exxon Mobil (up $0.66 to $53.93, Research) continued its run Wednesday, rising more than 1 percent, after posting a record-breaking fourth-quarter profit earlier in the week. The oil titian posted an $8.42 billion profit for the quarter, the largest ever in U.S. history.

The financial sector, however, took a beating after No. 1 mortgage lender Countrywide Financial (down $2.12 to $35.91, Research) posted a 39 percent decline in its fourth-quarter profit, knocking its stock more than 5 percent lower.

Treasury prices were flat, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note holding steady at 14 percent, unchanged from late Tuesday.

The dollar, meanwhile, gained ground versus the both the yen and euro.

The March U.S. light crude contract lost 43 cents to $46.69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude fell 72 cents to $44.08.

COMEX gold gained 10 cents to trade at $423.00 an ounce.

Asian-Pacific markets finished mixed Wednesday, but Tokyo's Nikkei index hit a two-week high. European indexes ended mostly higher. (Click here for more on world markets.)  Top of page


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