NEW YORK – Wall Street ended a robust week on a quieter note Friday after the Commerce Department reported that housing construction fell to its lowest level in more than six years. The Dow Jones industrials rose moderately, managing a fourth straight record high close.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index pulled back slightly, following a string of five straight advances for the major indexes. For the week, the major indexes rose, though Friday's move higher was somewhat tepid as declining issues outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by about 6 to 5.
Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading at Cowen & Co., said markets were reacting to the weaker-than-expected housing data but also could use a break before moving higher.
"The market is acting tremendously," he said. "I'd like to see a sell-off and we've been getting a little too bullish."
The Dow rose 36.74, or 0.30 percent, to 12,342.56. That was also the Dow's new trading high.
Broader stock indicators were narrowly mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.44, or 0.10 percent, to 1,401.20, marking the first time the S&P closed above 1,400 in more than six years. The Nasdaq composite index was down 3.20, or 0.13 percent, at 2,445.86.
Bonds fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.61 percent from 4.67 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Light, sweet crude fell 45 cents to $55.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has fallen sharply in recent days — it settled at its lowest level in a year on Thursday — as traders have grown concerned slumping demand would outweigh production cuts.
While investors were well aware of a slowdown in the housing market, the figures on housing starts showed a precipitous decline. Construction of single-family homes and apartments fell to an annual level of 1.486 million units last month, a 14.6 percent decline from September.
An eagerly anticipated initial public offering, that of New York Mercantile Exchange parent Nymex Holdings Inc., occurred Friday with shares opening at $120 and finishing the day at $132.99 after rising as high as $152. The offering of the 134-year-old commodities exchange had been priced at $59 per share, already higher than earlier estimates, as investors cheer strength in the energy and metals markets. The higher opening makes it the biggest gainer for an IPO on the NYSE this year.
Leone contends that the markets have been re-energized by the spate of buyout announcements in recent weeks, such as those for Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCU) and Reader's Digest Association Inc. (RDA) on Thursday. "That just reprices the market. That tells you stocks are worth more than we ever thought."
Still, he would like to see investors catch their breath so stocks don't become overbought. "Long term it scares me a little bit but short term I think we'll continue to move higher."
In corporate news, Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) posted a 5 percent drop in its fiscal fourth-quarter profit, though the coffee retailer's profit met Wall Street's expectations. The stock, which had risen 7 percent since last week, fell $2.01, or 5.1 percent, to $37.42 as investors grew concerned about issues such as labor costs.
Homebuilders were mixed following the data on housing starts. Toll Brothers Inc. (TOLL) was up 18 cents at $29.89, while Lennar Corp. fell 6 cents to $49.34. Technical Olympic USA Inc. was down 14 cents at $8.74.
Foot Locker Inc., the athletic footwear retailer, fell 64 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $23.27, after reporting a 2 percent decline in its third-quarter profit.
Advanced Magnetics Inc. jumped $13.10, or 30 percent, to $57 after the maker of components used in MRI tests reported promising results from a late-stage clinical trial for an iron-replacement therapy for chronic kidney disease patients.
HB Fuller Co. advanced $1.78, or 7 percent, to $27.06 after JP Morgan (JPM) said the maker of adhesives and coatings was likely to benefit from lower costs for raw materials.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was down 2.28, or 0.29 percent, at 788.47.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 6 to 5 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.68 billion shares, flat with that of Thursday.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 0.45 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 closed down 1.01 percent, while Germany's DAX index was down 0.48 percent, and France's CAC-40 finished down 1.20 percent.