NEW YORK – Stocks ended mixed Friday after profit-taking hit the Dow and a sunny outlook from Dell lifted the Nasdaq on a day that saw mixed messages on the economy vying for investors' attention.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) edged lower 49.36 points, or 0.48 percent, to settle at 10,140.12. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) gained 12.90 points, or 0.66 percent, to end at 1,976.78 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 (search) index lost 5.31 points, or 0.46 percent, to end at 1,154.05.
The Dow and S&P 500 finished the week substantially lower, while the tech rally pushed the Nasdaq to a small gain. Despite lower oil prices and a spate of strong economic data, an earnings warning from Wal-Mart enhanced investors' nervousness about the economy, prompting two triple-digit losses for the Dow. For the week, the Dow lost 1.98 percent, the S&P fell 1.48 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.48 percent.
On Friday, the Dow had been trading as much as 100 points lower but regained some footing late in the session when a regulatory filing showed billionaire investor Carl Icahn (search) owns 10 million shares of Rite Aid Corp. (RAD) and 4.5 million shares of Siebel Systems Inc. (SEBL) and some analysts said the report inspired confidence in the market.
Rite Aid gained 12 cents, or 3.12 percent, to end at $3.97 while Siebel Systems was up 7 cents at $9.66.
Dell Inc. (DELL), the world's largest maker of PCs, rose more than 7 percent to $39.33 on Nasdaq, a day after it reported quarterly earnings that met Wall Street expectations and said revenue growth should pick up in the coming quarter.
The company's improved outlook led to an upgrade by analysts at UBS, and gave investors hope that the lagging tech sector could be primed for a solid move higher.
Shortly after the opening bell, the University of Michigan's May preliminary index on consumer sentiment came in at 85.3, below economists' expectations for a median reading of 88.0.
Evan Olsen, head of equity trading at Stephens Inc., said that Wall Street "started on a positive note today after Dell reported a good number and an optimistic outlook, but the consumer sentiment number was disappointing and that took some wind out of the sails."
Additional economic data released before the opening bell showed U.S. import prices for April rose by double the expected amount as costs for imported petroleum and industrial supplies continued to advance in a potential risk to inflation.
Also released were U.S. business inventories data, showing a 0.4 percent rise in March, a touch below expectations.
"It's a kind of Friday the 13th reversal of fortune, where you're seeing oil drop off and the tech sector take off," said Bryan Piskorowski, market analyst at Wachovia Securities. "I think you're seeing some money rotation, some rebalancing going on, and that could set the stage for us go higher."
U.S. crude futures settled up 13 cents at $48.67 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, ending the steep slide from a Tuesday peak of $53.10.
Declining oil prices continued to hit the shares of major energy companies like Exxon Mobil (XOM), down 2.04 percent at $53.70.
Investors taking profits in basic materials also caused the Dow to slide.
Alcoa Inc. (AA), the world's largest aluminum producer, weighed on the blue-chip Dow average as it fell 3.09 percent to $26.70.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) continued a slide that started after it posted disappointing profits on Thursday. Wal-Mart fell 1.09 percent to $47.13.
Activity in the Treasury bond market reflected Wall Street's jitters amid lingering concerns following the downgrade of big automakers' debt. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 4.13 percent from 4.17 percent late Thursday — the lowest yields since mid-February. The dollar made strong gains against most major currencies, especially the euro, which fell to a seven month low against the dollar.
In earnings news, auto parts maker Delphi Corp. (DPH) climbed 11.8 percent, or 40 cents, to $3.80 even as the company posted a loss for the quarter due weak demand as many automakers cut back on their production. Higher materials costs also hurt the company, which missed Wall Street's loss estimate by 37 cents per share. Delphi said, however, it can still achieve its financial goals for the year.
Luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. (TIF) said strong sales in the United States helped offset weak Japanese sales, resulting in a 9 percent hike in profits from last year. The company beat analysts' expectations by 3 cents per share. Tiffany nonetheless lost 47 cents to $29.30 as consumer spending concerns took their toll on retailers.
Taser International Inc. (TSR) rose 18 cents to $11.38 after the stun-gun maker announced the results of an independent study showing little effect from the weapons on the heart functions of humans. Concerns that the weapons caused heart attacks and other complications had plagued the company for months.
Trading in stocks was heavy, with 1.73 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, above the 1.46 billion daily average for last year. About 1.89 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, above the 1.81 billion daily average last year.
Declining stocks outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by 2 to 1 and on Nasdaq, by roughly 9 to 7.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 4.87, or 0.83 percent, at 582.02.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.26 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.14 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 added 0.06 percent.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.