Techs Drag Down Stocks

Wall Street wrapped up a volatile week with a down session Friday as conflicting news from the technology sector exacerbated investors' uncertainty about earnings. The major indexes finished the week mixed after swerving sharply session to session.

Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) posted a disappointing earnings report, and computer maker Dell Inc. (DELL) warned that its quarterly results would likewise fall short of expectations. Yet Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) beat analysts' forecasts, and investors were cheered on the announcement of its stock buyback.

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The mix of news out of tech failed to clear up any of the uncertainties Wall Street faces regarding corporate earnings. Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony on Capitol Hill this week was seen as bullish on the economy, but also a warning that inflation is gaining traction and that more interest rate hikes are likely.

"The market's becoming very, very touchy, very news sensitive," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at Johnson Illington Advisors. "If it's good news, the market goes up. If there's even some bad news, the market goes down. And it's because politics, economics and earnings are all dark clouds hanging over this market."

Crude oil prices, cited by Bernanke as an inflationary pressure, edged higher Friday as the crisis in the Middle East escalated. A barrel of light crude settled at $74.43, up 16 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Nasdaq composite index dropped 19.03, or 0.93 percent, to 2,020.39 after plunging 41.29 Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 59.72, or 0.55 percent, to 10,868.38, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 8.84, or 0.71 percent, to 1,240.29.

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