Microsoft Buybacks Help Stocks to Five Session Winning Streak

Wall Street ended a strong week on a solid note Friday, as investors ignored slumping consumer sentiment and were instead cheered by word that Microsoft plans to expand share buybacks. The Dow Jones industrials, Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 all ended the week on five-session winning streaks.

The boost from Microsoft (MSFT) helped the Nasdaq notch its best weekly gain in three years.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.51, or 0.41 percent, to 11,381.47.

Broader stock indicators also made modest gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 4.82, or 0.37 percent, to 1,302.30, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 6.34, or 0.29 percent, to 2,163.95.

For the week, the Dow jumped 2.65 percent, the S&P 500 gained 2.81 percent and the Nasdaq surged 5.16 percent.

Bonds pushed toward gains for a fourth straight session, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.84 percent from 4.86 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Oil prices moved higher in trading after tumbling a day earlier on cooling of Middle East tensions. A barrel of light, sweet crude for September delivery settled at $71.14, up $1.08 from Thursday's close, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, oil fell as low as $69.60 a barrel — a level not seen since June 21.

The gains came in spite of the University of Michigan's preliminary reading of consumer sentiment in August, which was 78.7, down from 84.7 a month earlier. Wall Street had been looking for the index to tumble to 83.8, and the greater-than-expected drop was viewed as a signal the economy may weaken too much.

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Microsoft shares rose 3.4 percent to $25.53, their highest in nearly four months, after it said its expects to complete less than one-quarter of a $20 billion share buyback this week, shifting the rest of the buyback to later dates — a move that traders said would provide a floor for the software company's stock.

Shares of Dell (DELL), the world's largest personal computer maker, fell 2.5 percent to $22.24 on Nasdaq after Goldman Sachs downgraded it to "sell" following news late Thursday of falling profits and word that the Securities and Exchange Commission was requesting information on its accounting practices.

"Microsoft and tobacco have been acting pretty well and helping out the S&P," said Todd Leone, head of listed trading at Cowen & Co. in New York.

A federal judge's favorable ruling helped lift Altria Group Inc. (MO) shares 3.3 percent to $83.45, making it the top contributor to the Dow's gain and the second-biggest positive influence on the S&P 500.

Leone added that higher crude oil prices boosted recently beaten-down oil companies' shares, further aiding the rise in the S&P 500 and the Dow.

Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world's largest public oil company, rose 1 percent to $68.73, while shares of oil services company Schlumberger Limited climbed 1.7 percent to $63.38. Both helped drive the S&P higher.

Ford Motor Co. (F) shares slipped 2 percent to $8.01 after it said it would cut vehicle production for the rest of the year as it accelerates a turnaround plan that has not yielded results fast enough.

Fitch Ratings also cut its debt rating on Ford Motor Co. while Standard & Poor's and Moody's warned they may follow.

Advancers outnumbered decliners by a 3-to-2 basis on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.35 billion shares, compared to 1.58 billion traded Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.90, or 0.13 percent, to 711.68.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed up 0.53 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.05 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.28 percent, and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.18 percent.

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.