Blue Chips Rise on GE Outlook, Rate Cut Hopes

Blue chips rose Friday, boosted by an upbeat forecast from General Electric (GE) and the Federal Reserve's anticipated rate cut, but the Nasdaq slipped, dragged down by weakness in networking and semiconductor shares.

The Dow Jones industrial average (search) ended up 21.22 points, or 0.23 percent, at 9,200.75. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) added .99 point, or 0.1 percent, at 995.69. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) gave up 3.88 points, or 0.24 percent, to 1,644.76.

For the week, the Dow ended up 0.92 percent and the S&P gained 0.72 percent. It was the fourth straight week of gains for the two gauges. The Nasdaq rose 1.14 percent.

General Electric affirmed its earnings outlook for the second quarter and full year. The news surprised some analysts, who had expected the diversified company to lower the range of its earnings guidance. Its shares ended up 15 cents, or half a percent, at $30.01.

"The market's up because people feel good about the economy, the interest rate cut we're probably going to get next week, and the guidance from GE, a bellwether for the U.S. economy," said Steve Kolano, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management.

The Federal Reserve holds a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to lower the federal funds rate, now at 1.25 percent, for the 13th time since January 2001. Market watchers are divided about whether the Fed will cut interest rates by 25 or 50 basis points.

Some of the market's volatility was due to "quadruple-witching" -- the expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, equity options and single stock futures.

Keeping the market on edge was news that the U.S. Embassy in Kenya was closed due to a "serious terror threat," an embassy spokesman said. U.S. intelligence indicated there was a threat of an imminent attack against American interests there, defense officials said.

Also fueling the market's gains and trading volume was the reconstitution of various Standard & Poor's indexes, traders said. Earlier this week, S&P announced changes to several of its indexes involving the reshuffling of companies in its growth and value index indexes. The changes, which S&P makes twice a year, will be made after the close of trading on Friday.

General Motors Corp. (GM), was in the spotlight after the automaker said it would sell $13 billion in bonds to shore up its U.S. pension plan. Its shares ended up 1.37 percent, or 52 cents, at $38.59.

On the Nasdaq, business software company PeopleSoft Inc. (PSFT) said its board unanimously rejected a sweetened $6.3 billion hostile takeover bid by Oracle Corp. (ORCL) , saying the offer was inadequate and a merger would violate antitrust laws. PeopleSoft shares fell 19 cents to $17.42, while those of Oracle fell 41 cents, or 3.08 percent, at $12.93.

Oil services company Halliburton Co. (HAL) fell after warning that its second-quarter earnings would fall well below Wall Street forecasts due to further losses from its troubled Brazilian oil project. It also said it may need to boost its payout for asbestos damages. Halliburton shares fell $1.22, or 5 percent, to $23.21.

Research In Motion (RIMM), the tech company known for its Blackberry email device, slipped a penny to $23 after Morgan Stanley downgraded it to "underweight" from "equal-weight."

Darden Restaurants (DRI), which operates the Red Lobster and Olive Garden Chains, fell 39 cents to $19.11 after Smith Barney downgraded it to "underperform" from "in-line."

Trading was heavy, with about 1.69 billion shares changing hands on the Big Board and roughly 1.77 billion shares traded on the Nasdaq. Decliners narrowly outnumbered advancers by a ratio of 17 to 16 on the Big Board and were about evenly matched on the Nasdaq.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, slipped 0.77, or 0.2 percent, to 449.56.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished Friday up 0.1 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 rose 0.8 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 advanced 0.7 percent and Germany's DAX index declined 0.3 percent.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.