Stock market inches higher despite bank slump

By JOSHUA FREED,AP Business Writer Updated at 2012-05-11 17:31:50 +0000


JPMorgan's surprise $2 billion trading loss prompted a sell-off in financial stocks Friday, but the broader market edged higher as investors decided this was a problem for investment banks and not other industries.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 11 points in midday trading after bouncing back from a 76-point decline. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose two points to 1,360. The Nasdaq composite index, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, was up 14 points at 2,947.

Financial stocks in the S&P fell 0.7 percent, while the other nine industry groups rose. For that, the other investment banks could thank JPMorgan, America's biggest bank. The stock plunged 8 percent, dragging other banks with big Wall Street operations down with it. Morgan Stanley fell 2.7 percent and Goldman Sachs fell 2.6 percent. Citigroup fell 3.5 percent.

Retail-focused banks fared better, with Bank of America and Wells Fargo each posting tiny declines.

JPMorgan's blunder comes in the midst of a political battle over how closely to regulate banks, though JP Morgan's CEO Jamie Dimon said the trades would not have been affected by the so-called Volcker rule, expected to take effect this summer. Still, the $2 billion loss is sure to be used as ammunition by those pushing for tighter regulation of investment banks.

"It'll definitely have a political impact," said Randy Warren, chief investment officer for Warren Financial Service.

The Dow had declined six days in a row before notching a small gain Thursday. "It's time for a little rebound, so it wouldn't be surprising to see it bounce back a little bit, even with the JPMorgan news," Warren said.

Tech stocks did well. Intel rose 2 percent after it told analysts that it is on track to meet sales expectations. Tech investors were relieved to hear that one day after Cisco Systems prompted selling in tech shares by being pessimistic about sales. Microsoft shares rose 1.9 percent. Semiconductor maker Nvidia jumped 8 percent, the most in the S&P 500, after reporting revenue that was higher than analysts were expecting.

Consumer discretionary stocks were also up. Retailer Bed Bath & Beyond jumped 4.7 percent, one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 index, and video streaming and DVD-by-mail company Netflix rose 6.3 percent.

Pharmacy benefits manger Express Scripts rose 2.7 percent after it reported prescription growth in its first quarter since splitting with drugstore chain Walgreen.

Verizon rose 1.8 percent and AT&T was up 2.1 percent after Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Chaplin raised his earnings estimates for this year and next. They're making phone upgrades more expensive for customers, which should help the phone companies' bottom lines, Chaplin wrote.

Also Friday, the Labor Department said that the producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, dropped 0.2 percent last month. It was the first decline since December and the biggest drop since October. Declines were driven by gas and energy prices. That's good news for consumer spending.

Separately, a closely watched measure of consumer confidence from the University of Michigan released Friday morning was better than analysts had expected. The index was at its highest level since January 2008.

Oil prices fell 41 cents to $96.67 per barrel. Gold prices fell 0.6 percent to $1,585.60 per ounce.

European stocks were mixed. France's CAC 40 index fell very slightly, but Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent and Germany's DAX rose 1 percent. Borrowing costs for Germany and France fell, while costs for Italy and Spain rose as investors remain focused on Greece, where another general election is expected for next month following the failure of attempts to form a government.