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FINANCIAL MARKETS : STOCKS : Profit Taking Trims Gains; Dow Rises 6.53

From Times Wire Services

Stock prices rose Thursday in a fourth straight gain, but blue chips ended below their session peaks on a bout of late profit taking. The Dow Jones index of 30 industrial stocks closed up 6.53 at 2,696.17, bringing its gain during the past four sessions to 51.12.

In the broader market, advancing issues outnumbered declines in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, with 901 up, 557 down and 520 unchanged.

Big Board volume edged up to 145.57 million shares from 141.61 million Wednesday.

Investors, who have been uneasy about the course of stock prices, plowed some cash into the market as they saw prices gain ground in the session.

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They were helped along by the bond market, which rose ahead of the government’s April employment report, due out this morning.

But some traders were nervous before release of the report, which will provide the first official statistics on the economy’s performance last month and could help sort out conflicting views about inflation.

Skittishness about the report combined with profit taking pared the gain in the key Dow index, which was up more than 15 points at the mid-session.

The jobs report “can be full of surprises,” said Hugh Johnson, analyst at First Albany Co. “It’s the first comprehensive look at the economy for the month of April, and there’s a well-founded belief that the Fed (Federal Reserve) looks very closely at it.”

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Economists expect the unemployment rate to be flat at 5.2% but project a strong gain in job growth after a weak pace in March.

N. V. Philips tumbled 2 7/8 to 17 1/8 in active trading. The Netherlands-based electronics company posted a surprisingly sharp decline in profit for the first quarter.

Halliburton, by contrast, gained 3/4 to 44 7/8. On Wednesday, the company reported higher first-quarter earnings.

Fleet-Norstar Financial climbed 1/2 to 19 1/4. The company, which had a $98.1-million loss in the first quarter, said it expected to return to profitability this quarter.

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Oracle Systems gained 1 3/8 to 17 1/4 as the company cited an improved profit outlook for the fiscal year that ends May 31.

Carson-based Dynasty Classics, which makes home decor products, made an initial stock offering at 11 1/4. The stock closed at 12 1/4.

Among single-country investment funds, which were strong for the second straight session, Germany Fund rose 1 1/8 to 15 3/8, Austria Fund added 1 1/8 to 15 1/8, Korea Fund gained 1 5/8 to 21 1/8, Portugal Fund was up 1 1/8 at 14 and Jakarta Fund rose 3/4 to 14 1/8.

In London, share prices ended a two-day rally mostly lower as investors took to the sidelines while Britons voted nationwide in local elections. The Financial Times 100-share index finished down 2.7 at 2134.9. In Frankfurt, the DAX index jumped 38.38 to 1,881.79 on renewed optimism about German unity.

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The Tokyo stock market was closed and will remain closed today for holidays.


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