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Stocks Mixed After Report on Wholesale Prices

Stocks ended mixed today, capping an up-and-down week as new data that renewed concerns about inflation muted gains in blue chip stocks and kept techs in the red.

The Dow finished at 10,785.22, up 30.96 points, or 0.29 percent, for the session. The Dow was down 0.1 percent for the week, ending a three-week run of gains.

Wholesale Prices

The Nasdaq lost ground today, dropping 2.72 points, or 0.13 percent, to 2,058.62, and was off 0.9 percent on the week. The S&P 500 gained slightly, rising 0.84 points, or 0.07 percent to 1,201.59, and was off 0.3 percent for the week.

The session got off to a rocky start after the Labor Department reported that the producer price index (PPI), the measure of costs at the wholesale level, rose 0.3 percent in January, including a 0.8 percent jump in core rate, which strips out food and energy costs.

Market watchers said the report will mean close scrutiny of the February 23 Consumer Price Index, since inflationary trends are often easier to spot at the retail level.

However, while it dented stock prices, the PPI was a strong but short-lived boost to the dollar, which logged gains against both the euro and the yen in the wake of the report but fell back to the flat line by the close of trading.

Drug Stocks Soar

Some positive news about individual stocks helped counter the inflation news on Wall Street.

Drug makers Merck, whose stock soared 11 percent, and Pfizer, which saw its shares rise 5 percent, were the day’s biggest winners after a Food and Drug Administration panel voted to allow their arthritis painkillers — Vioxx and Celebrex, respectively — to remain on the market. Both companies are components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Oil prices rose for the day as crude futures tacked on 81 cents to US$48.35 per barrel in New York trading today.

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