Gas, oil help fuel late rally in stocks


NEW YORK - U.S. stocks rebounded in the final 90 minutes of trading yesterday, wiping out losses to finish a fifth winning week in six, as natural gas and oil shares climbed.

Exxon Mobil Corp. and General Electric Co. lifted the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Dow Jones industrial average. Declines in Palm Inc., Dell Computer Corp. and Agilent Technologies Inc. limited the Nasdaq composite index's gain.

The Dow advanced 53.16, or 0.5 percent, to 11,301.74, its highest close since Sept. 6. The S&P; 500 rose 3.47, or 0.3 percent, to 1,291.96. The Nasdaq composite gained 5.20, or 0.2 percent, to 2,198.88.

The Sun-Bloomberg index of the top stocks in Maryland rose 0.94 to 223.00.

For the week, the Dow climbed 4.4 percent, the Nasdaq 4.3 percent and the S&P; 500 3.7 percent.

Eight stocks rose for every seven that fell on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, while advancing and declining shares were about even on the Nasdaq stock market.

More than 1.1 billion shares traded on the NYSE, 9.6 percent below the three-month daily average.

"It's a post-Fed, post-earnings, get-out-of-the-office-early day," David Rolfe, chief investment officer of Wedgewood Partners Inc. in St. Louis. "After the excitement we've had, I don't mind days" with slower-than-average trading.

Exxon Mobil gained $1.47 to $90.20. The world's largest publicly traded oil company was one of eight firms chosen to tap natural gas fields and work on other energy projects in Saudi Arabia as part of a $25 billion development plan.

Among other U.S. energy companies chosen, Phillips Petroleum Co. gained $1.65 to $67.52, and Enron Corp. climbed $2.70 to $54.90.

Energy stocks also were nudged higher by stronger crude oil prices and because investors became optimistic that President Bush's national energy policy may boost profits. Gasoline prices surged, boosting companies that own refineries and service stations such as Exxon Mobil and Phillips.

Palm fell $2, or 28 percent, to $5.05 and was the most active stock, with about 124 million shares trading, seven times its three-month daily average. The biggest maker of electronic organizers said sales for the quarter will be reduced because release of Palm's m500 model was delayed.

Rival Handspring Inc. dropped $1.69 to $8.69.

Dell Computer Corp. fell $1.09 to $24.79. The No. 1 U.S. personal-computer maker said first-quarter earnings fell because it didn't cut costs fast enough to make up for PC price reductions.

Agilent Technologies Inc. lost $2.72 to $36. The test- and measurement-equipment maker reported second-quarter profit that fell short of forecasts.

Intuit Inc. fell $3.01 to $32.22. Prudential Securities Inc. analyst Bryan Keane said the personal-finance software maker's revenue growth will slow amid "lackluster" sales of its QuickBooks software and problems in its Internet business.

Gold prices rose 5 percent, giving the S&P; gold index the biggest percentage gain in the S&P; 500. Newmont Mining Corp. climbed $1.42 to $24; Barrick Gold Corp. advanced 85 cents to $19.02; Homestake Mining Co. rose 70 cents to $7.88; and Placer Dome Inc. gained 48 cents to $12.18.

Lucent Technologies Inc. rose 12 cents to $9.93 after the New York Times reported that Alcatel SA, Europe's No. 4 phone equipment maker, is in talks to buy the No. 1 U.S. phone-equipment maker for more than $40 billion. The price would be about 20 percent more than Lucent's market value of $33.5 billion, the paper said, citing unidentified executives close to the discussions.

Alcatel's American depositary receipts declined $1.89 to $30.15.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. gained $4.47 to $63.85 after the company said it will split its stock 2 for 1.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.24 percent; Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.18 percent higher; Germany's DAX index advanced 0.21 percent; and France's CAC-40 rose 0.82 percent.

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