Stocks soared today while Wall Street cheered lower interest rates and a federal appeals court's reversal of the breakup of Microsoft.
Track Your Stocks | Check Your Portfolio | Microsoft Ruling
The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 131.37 at 10,566.21, according to preliminary calculations, changing course after four straight sessions of declines that produced an aggregate loss of 268 points.
Broader stock indicators also moved higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15.16 to 1,226.23, while the Nasdaq composite index advanced 50.91 to 2,125.65.
Ruling Adds Fire to Rally
The court ruling on Microsoft, which came just before noon, reversed parts of a lower court finding that the software maker had violated antitrust laws.
Microsoft, the world's top software maker, rose $1.57, or 2.2 percent, to $72.71. The shares, which reopened for trading shortly before 3 p.m. ET after being halted through the afternoon, moved upward, underpinning both the blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq.
The news intensified a rally in technology and blue chips that began early in the session as investors decided the Federal Reserve's interest rate cut Wednesday, though smaller than they wanted, was a reason to buy.
"Psychologically, this could help technology a little but it doesn't change underlying fundamentals. The outlook is still poor for most of the sector," said Rafael Tamargo, director of equity trust at Wilmington Trust.
Other high-tech gainers included Oracle, up $1.14 at $19.18, and PMC-Sierra, which gained $1.73 to end at $29.15.
Blue chips were also strong across a variety of sectors. Alcoa rose $1.54 to $40, American Express advanced $1.22 to $39.47 and Wal-Mart moved up 87 cents to $49.37.
Delayed Reaction to Fed Move
The strong buying, though, was largely a delayed upbeat response to the Fed's sixth interest rate reduction this year. On Wednesday, Wall Street was upset by the Fed's decision to cut rates a quarter of a percentage point, instead of the half-point many on Wall Street felt was in order.
But the market quickly got over its disappointment about the size of the cut as investors opted to pick up shares that have fallen to bargain prices in recent weeks. Analysts said the end of the quarter, and prospects for an economic recovery in the second half of the year, also contributed to the buying.
"The market seems to be used to the fact that these second-quarter earnings are go to be ugly. The market is going to be looking forward now," said Barry Berman, head trader for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee.
But any sustained rise in stock prices will be gradual and hard fought, he said, adding, "In order for the market to make any significant move to the upside, it is going to need to see signs that the economy has bottomed and that it is improving."
Investors since late May have been skittish because of a streak of bad news — more than 600 profits warnings this quarter alone - and the lack of a timeline for when corporate performance will improve.
"We're still looking for a fourth-quarter recovery, but we won't have any visibility about the fourth quarter until late August," said Charles White, portfolio manager at Avatar Associates, who said Wall Street is looking for signs of a turnaround.
More Market Movers
The market also got a lift from news that General Electric's proposed purchase of Honeywell might not be dead after all.