Stocks Tick Higher on Takeover, Economic News

Wall Street rose moderately Friday, carving out its fourth straight weekly gain amid a fresh round of corporate takeover news and employment figures that largely met expectations.

Reports that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has renewed talks to acquire or invest in Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) helped buoy investor sentiment Friday as did word that Reuters Group PLC (RTRSY)received a preliminary takeover offer. There is speculation that Thomson Corp., the financial data provider, is the likely suitor for the British news and information company.

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Beyond the buyout news, which has figured prominently in shaping Wall Street's largely upbeat mood in recent months, economic figures offered some nuggets for both bullish and bearish investors. The Labor Department said Friday the nation's jobless rate rose to 4.5 percent in April as expected; in the prior month, the rate stood at a five-year low of 4.4 percent.

But employers also added the fewest new jobs in more than two years. Wage growth, though, remained in check. While Wall Street doesn't want consumers to feel less secure in their jobs and perhaps curb their spending, a spike in wages amid a tight labor market could stir concerns about inflation.

"The economic data suggest that the economy is not tanking and inflation is not accelerating and that the Fed is not going to upset the apple cart," said Alan Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price, referring to the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.24, or 0.18 percent, to 13,264.62. The Dow reached a trading high of 13,284.53, which topped its previous record of 13,256.33 set Wednesday.

The blue chip index has set 19 record closes since the start of the year and 41 since the beginning of October. The Dow's move higher in 23 of the last 26 sessions marks the longest streak of advances for the blue chips since 1955.

Broader stock indicators also moved higher Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 3.23, or 0.21 percent, to 1,505.62. On Thursday, the S&P 500 moved above the 1,500 mark for the first time in nearly seven years, and it rise as high as 1,510.34 on Friday. The return to 1,500 puts the closing high of 1,527.46 — reached March 24, 2000 — within investors' sights.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 6.69, or 0.26 percent, to 2,572.15; while the Nasdaq has risen alongside the Dow and the S&P in recent sessions, it remains about halfway toward its March 2000 high.

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