Investors shrugged off news Friday that unemployment hit its lowest level in 25 years in November to push the broader markets up, capping a strong week that brought the Dow Jones industrial average within 100 points of its all-time high.
The Dow gained 98.97 points to 8149.13 while the NASDAQ composite coasted to a 20-point gain to close at 1633.90.
Typically, lower unemployment would have a negative affect on the economy as higher wages and prices usually accompany a tighter job market. But analysts said the unemployment news makes it less likely the Federal Reserve Board will raise interest rates when it meets later this month.
Analysts said the Fed would be less inclined to raise interest rates because lower unemployment, while in theory means more income can be spent on goods, also leaves the economy less flexibility in dealing with any dramatic fundamental change. Higher interest rates would result in higher prices, something technology firms especially don't need when dealing with the chaos of Asian financial markets.
Leading the charge Friday was a smorgasbord of technology stocks. Ascend Communications Inc. continued its rise from Thursday, picking up $2.06 per share to $28.94 amid reports that Lucent Technologies Inc. may try to take over the networking firm. Lucent's stock gained $1.81 per share in heavy trading to close at $81.
Other networking stocks enjoyed solid growth Friday as both 3Com Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. made substantial gains.
Semiconductor stocks bounced back from a brutal beating Thursday as investors regained their poise and aspirations for solid fourth-quarter sales. Intel Corp. was up 88 cents per share to $77.56 while IBM and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. gained $3 and 19 cents per share, respectively.
Dell, Compaq, and Gateway 2000 all watched their stock take off in Friday's rally. Dell's stock had the best run, closing up $2.31 per share to $93.75. Apple Computer Inc. managed to scrape out a 19-cent gain to close at $15.81.
Sun Microsystems Inc. and Netscape Communications Corp. continued their winning ways, picking up $1 and $1.56 per share, respectively. Microsoft Corp. gained a modest 56 cents per share to $143.13.
CyberMedia Inc. lost $2.63 per share to $20 after company officials said it would be restating some financial information from previous quarters.
New-media stocks rode the wave as well, pushing Yahoo! Inc., Excite Inc., and Lycos Inc. all up in moderate trading.