NEW YORK -- Santa Claus finally arrived on Wall Street on Friday, giving the beleaguered Nasdaq composite index its strongest performance in more than a week and its fifth-biggest percentage gain ever.
A late round of holiday buying sent tech and blue chip stocks soaring as bargain-hunting investors capitalized on the massive selloffs earlier this week. But analysts cautioned against attributing the gains to anything more than seasonality and the market's oversold condition.
"This is a bounce. The basic nuts and bolts of why we came down, the cooling economy and earnings warnings, haven't gone away," said Larry Wachtel, market analyst at Prudential Securities. "Just because we're able to go up after more than a week on the downside for the Nasdaq doesn't mean it's a brave new world. It's just the law of averages."
"Typically the last week of the year tends to be a strong period, and with tech stocks having been devastated in the last two or three weeks, there's a lot of bargain hunting going on," said Peter Anderson, chief investment officer at American Express Financial.
The Nasdaq closed up 7.56 percent, or 176.90 at 2,517.02, the index's fifth-biggest percentage gain ever and just out of the top 10 in terms of point gains. The boost couldn't compensate for earlier selloffs, however; the index fell 136.25 for the week, or 5.1 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 1.4 percent, rising 148.27 to 10,635.56, ending the week up 1.9 percent or 200.60.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 31.11, a 2.4 percent gain, to 1,305.97. For the week, it was off 6.2, just under half a percent.
Trading was light in anticipation of Monday's holiday, when the market will be closed.
Bargain hunting lifted the Dow by 168 points and Nasdaq by 7 points on Thursday -- breaking a seven-session losing streak for the tech-heavy index -- and the same happened Friday.
Tech stocks led the way. Computer and printer company Hewlett-Packard, a Dow component, rose $2.81 to $32.19. Microsoft also gained ground, up $3 at $46.44.
Non-tech gains were solid, buoyed by rises in financial issues. Banker J.P. Morgan rose 50 cents to $167.88 and Citigroup rose $1.31 to $50.06. Drugs and consumer staples, however, showed some weakness. Merck fell $2 to $90.50; Procter & Gamble was off 75 cents at $73.75.
Ford fell $1.38 to $22.81 after warning soft demand would affect its sales and results.
Earnings worries have dogged the market since Labor Day, but those concerns have intensified in recent weeks because of new reports suggesting the economy is quickly slowing.
The market plunged Tuesday and Wednesday, rattled by earnings worries and the realization the Federal Reserve would not cut interest rates before the holidays.
Also Friday, Litton jumped $15.31 to $77.94, a 24 percent gain, on news the defense contractor was being acquired by rival Northrop Grumman for $3.8 billion in cash. Northrop fell $7.81 to $74.13, a 9 percent drop.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 1.32 billion shares, compared with nearly 1.77 billion Thursday.
The Russell 2000 index rose 15.96 to 462.99.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average was virtually unchanged, rising 0.03 percent. Germany's DAX index was up 0.8 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 was down 0.3 percent, and France's CAC-40 was up 0.4 percent.
On the Net:
New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com
Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com
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