Stocks were mixed at the end of a choppy trading session Friday as investors weighed better-than-expected data on producer prices and consumer sentiment against mediocre industrial production numbers and analyst downgrades of industry bellwethers Intel (INTC) and General Electric (GE).
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36.96 points, or 0.43 percent, to 8,579.09, marking its fourth straight day of gains. Earlier in the day, the blue-chip Dow had fallen as much as 82 points. The technology-laced Nasdaq shed 0.38 of a point, or 0.03 percent, to 1,411.14, and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 5.56 points, or 0.6 percent, to 909.83.
For the week, all three indexes closed higher, with the Dow up 0.5 percent, the Nasdaq climbing 3.8 percent and the S&P 500 rising 1.7 percent.
"The market is handling itself quite nicely," said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist and director of research at Global Partners Securities. "The downgrades weighed on the early part of the day, but what we are seeing here is anticipation of better economic numbers and a pick-up in economic activity in the first quarter of next year."
The University of Michigan's preliminary gauge of consumer sentiment rose to 85 in November from a final 80.6 in October, according to sources. That put a halt to a five-month slide in sentiment and beat forecasts for a rise to 82.3.
Other data showed producer prices, as measured by prices received at the farm and factory gate, jumped 1.1 percent in October, after a gain of just 0.1 percent the month before, as energy prices spiked last month.
The "core" PPI, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, increased 0.5 percent in October after a 0.1 percent rise a month earlier. It was the biggest gain in the core PPI since September 1999.
On the corporate front, J.P. Morgan Securities early on Friday cut its rating and earnings forecast for GE , a Dow component, saying earnings growth in the next two years will be skewed to its GE Capital unit or acquisitions.
GE's stock fell 64 cents, or 2.6 percent to $23.86 and was the most-active name on the New York Stock Exchange for most of the session.
Intel , also a component in the Dow, slid 41 cents, or 2.13 percent, to $18.80 after Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the world's largest chipmaker to "sell" from "neutral," citing a dim outlook for the global chip-making sector.
Despite Intel's decline, however, semiconductor stocks eked out a gain as the Philadelphia Stock Exchange semiconductor index rose 0.17 percent.
"There are definitely buyers out there," said Andrew Baker, senior trader at Wedbush Morgan, "People are looking to selectively add to positions at the right prices."
A cautious outlook from personal computer bellwether Dell Computer Corp. (DELL) also weighed on the Nasdaq as the stock tumbled $1.12, or 3.6 percent, to $29.82. Late Thursday Dell reported higher third-quarter profits but its fourth-quarter outlook was slightly below what some analysts and investors were expecting.
Shares of Gateway Inc. (GTW) tumbled 63 cents, or 15 percent, to $3.56 after the personal computer maker disclosed it was the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that dates back to late 2000.
Citigroup Inc. (C) shares helped offset losses in the Dow, advancing 76 cents, or 2.1 percent to $36.90. The bank is expected to agree to pay fines of about $200 million each to federal and state regulators that will end a probe into stock research, a source familiar with the talks said.
Wall Street's biggest firms have been holding talks with regulators to resolve conflict of interest questions with a broad settlement that will include fines and changes in how research departments operate.
Citigroup's stock was the fifth most active stock on the Big Board in afternoon trade, and the Amex Broker-Dealer Index was among the top industry percentage gainers on the Big Board, up 1.55 percent on the day.
Trading activity was light, with 1.4 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.7 billion traded on Nasdaq. About 19 stocks rose for every 13 that fell on the Big Board, with 17 stocks down for every 15 that rose on the Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, slipped 0.32, or 0.1 percent, to 385.92.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished higher 2.4 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 rose 0.4 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1 percent, and Germany's DAX index inched up 0.1 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.