A late rebound left stocks mostly higher Friday as investors demonstrated a growing indifference to overseas events, shrugging off reports that a major Japanese financial institution was going out of business.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 54.46 to 7,881.07 despite slipping to a 35-point loss amid the latest developments in Asia.Several broad-market measures also struggled higher by the close despite falling into negative territory following reports that Ya-mai-chi Securities, one of Japan's "Big Four" securities houses, plans to close.
Technology stocks, perceived to have the greatest exposure to Asia's economic woes, and smaller-company issues trimmed their loss-es, but finished lower for the day.
"In light of the fact that you have a major Japanese securities firm throwing in the towel, today's (Friday's) rally is fairly decent," said Charles White, portfolio manager at Avatar Associates. "We've started to see the impact of Asian markets muted here. While there's still some sensitivity, it's not as pronounced as before."
The collapse of Yamaichi, crippled by debts of $24 billion, would be the latest blow to the troubled Japanese financial world, which has yet to recover from real-estate speculation and excessive lending during the 1980s. A medium-size Japanese brokerage went bankrupt earlier this month and a major Japanese bank shut down just days ago.
The battered Japanese stock market has gyrated sharply this week amid uncertainty over how aggressively the government would move to shore up the financial system.
On Thursday, investors were heartened by news that Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, reversing his stance for the second time this week, said the government may tap public funds to help Japanese banks. On Friday, the Nikkei News service said the Japanese central bank plans to extend loans to protect the assets of Yamaichi's customers.
Stocks started Friday's trading higher, with the Dow rising nearly 55 points, after Asian financial markets posted some big gains. Stocks in Hong Kong surged 5 percent overnight, and Tokyo share prices rose 2.5 percent.
The early follow-through on Wall Street was tempered, however, by some profit-taking on this week's rally, which had already added about 250 points to the Dow. The day's slim gains quickly evaporated early Friday afternoon amid the news from Japan.
The biggest gainers in the Dow were Disney, which jumped 4 1/16 to 943/4; Merck, up 2 to 94 9/16; Exxon, up 11/4 to 63 15/16; and DuPont, up 11/4 to 621/2.
The Dow, which rose 308.59, or about 4 percent, for the week, now sits about 200 points shy of a full recovery from last month's selloff and 400 points from record territory.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 6-to-5 margin on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. NYSE volume totaled 592.04 million shares as of 4 p.m., down slightly from Friday's tally of 601.80 million.