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Earnings Buoy Techs; Dow Struggles

Cindy Perman|CNBC.com
Friday, 18 Dec 2009 | 1:23 PM ET

The Dow turned lower Friday as the dollar moved higher on Iraq-Iran tensions. But techs rallied after strong earnings reports from Oracle and Research In Motion.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up about 1 percent, while the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average struggled.

After the Dow hit a 14-month high on Monday, it's been a steady descent from there and the blue-chip index is on track right now for about a 200-point loss for the week. The S&P and Nasdaq are flat.

Volatility and high volume could well spark wide swings today as Wall Street goes through its final "quadruple witching" day of 2009, with the simultaneous expirations of various options and futures contracts.

Market watchers were saying the combination of the "quadruple witching" and the shifting of companies in and out of the major indexes could result in the busiest trading day of the year. About half a billion shares changed hands in the first five minutes of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Earnings provided a positive spark: After the bell Thursday, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion and Oracle both beat consensus estimates, as did Nike.

But Palm shares tumbled after the smartphone maker posted a loss that was worse than expectations as it faces increasing competition in the crowded field.

The Nasdaq and its weighting of tech stocks outperformed its counterparts.

On the Dow, the bluechip index's modest gains were powered by Microsoft and Intel.

Techs were also hot on the S&P, with Oracle and Motorola near the top of the leader board.

Oil topped $74 a barrelafter an Iraqi official said Iranian troops briefly entered an Iraqi oilfield on Thursday and on the prospect of increased winter demand. Gold fell below $1,110 an ounceand the dollar gainedagainst both the euro and yen.

Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, saw its quarterly profit of 43 cents a share narrowly beat estimates. But the company narrowed its outlook going forward due to "sluggish" sales trends, and shares dropped.

Videogame maker Take Two Interactive matched estimates with its latest earnings, but more notable was news that activist investor Carl Icahn has taken an 11.3 percent stake in the company, sending the shares up.

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing said Icahn may seek talks with Take Two, but it did not elaborate.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

Boeing shares took a hit as budget carrier Ryanair has halted discussions to purchase as many as 200 Boeing jets.

Jeweler Zale is also a stock to watch today, after a report in the Wall Street Journal saying that the nation's second-biggest jewelry retailer has canceled some orders with suppliers as debt increases and sales decline.

  Price   Change %Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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DRI
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INTC
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MSFT
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NKE
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ORCL
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BB
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TTWO
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ZLC
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RY4B
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KMX
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C
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BA
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