After a two-day decline that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) crater more than 550 points, Wall Street desperately wanted to end the week on a good note. The slump -- which included the Dow's worst day of the year as it fell 353 points yesterday -- was predicated by news on Wednesday that the Fed may begin tapering its bond purchases later this year. Today, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said that the announcement was premature, a sign bulls cheered as a Fed advocate for further stimulus made himself known. The Dow advanced 41 points, or 0.3%, to end at 14,799.
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), which had fallen nearly 5% in the previous two trading sessions, rebounded with a vengeance, leading all blue-chip stocks on Friday with gains of 2.9%. Yesterday, the consumer goods giant announced a licensing deal with premium fashion brand Alexander McQueen to develop and market designer fragrances under the popular Alexander McQueen name. The deal should make P&G's beauty division -- which already accounts for nearly a quarter of the company's sales -- even more robust.
Another big winner today was Merck (NYSE:MRK), whose shares edged up 1.5% after losing ground every other day this week. Interestingly enough, both Merck and Procter & Gamble pay dividends of more than 3% a year, and investors showed today that high payouts by proven companies simply can't be ignored forever. Also helping Merck shares was the health-care sector itself, which ended as the second-best performing equity group of the day.
Unfortunately for International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) shareholders, technology was the absolute worst-performing sector of the market Friday. IBM shares followed suit, losing 1%. It didn't help that Oracle shares cratered more than 9% today on weak fourth-quarter fiscal results. While Oracle is primarily a software powerhouse, it also provides business consulting, enterprise, and IT solutions -- all lines of business IBM specializes in.
That said, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) posted the steepest losses in the Dow, as shares slumped 2.3% going into the weekend. The slide comes after news that HP is shifting its legal representatives in a shareholder lawsuit against the company. The suit itself stems from HP's whopping $8.8 billion writedown on the value of its 2011 Autonomy acquisition, which was originally purchased for $10.3 billion.
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