Stocks Gain Friday, Up for Third Week

U.S. stocks finished Friday near session highs, with the S&P 500 making a late about-face to end in the green, lifted by well- received results from Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and Intel Corp. The major indexes rose 2% to nearly 3% for the week, the third straight week of gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 96.50 points, or 0.76%, at 12,720.48. The S&P 500 ended up 0.88 point, or 0.07%, at 1,315.38. The Nasdaq Composite lost 1.63 points, or 0.06%, to 2,786.70.

Microsoft reported a fiscal second-quarter profit of $6.62 billion, or 78 cents a share, on $20.89 billion in revenue for the quarter ended December 31. During the year-ago period, Microsoft earned $6.63 billion or 77 cents a share on sales of $19.95 billion.

International Business Machines Corp. on Thursday reported a 4.4% increase in fourth-quarter earnings and provided strong guidance for 2012, helped by its software and services businesses. For the fourth quarter, IBM reported a profit of $5.49 billion, or $4.62 a share, up from $5.26 billion, or $4.18 a share, a year earlier.

Intel Corp. posted a modest gain in fourth-quarter profit, beating Wall Street’s projections. The chipmaker reported a fourth-quarter profit $3.4 billion, or 64 cents a share, compared with a profit of $3.2 billion, or 56 cents a share, for the year- earlier period. Revenue rose 21% to $13.9 billion from $11.5 billion.

Intel Corp unveiled a string of management changes on Friday, elevating 20-year company veteran and manufacturing expert Brian Krzanich to the post of chief operating officer and raising his stature as a possible future CEO.

The string of sovereign debt downgrades in recent months could be just the beginning. The US, Europe-even Germany-could face further ratings cuts over the next three years, according to a lengthy analysis this week by Citigroup

Lawmakers stopped anti-piracy legislation in its tracks on Friday, delivering a stunning win for Internet companies that staged an unprecedented online protest this week to kill the previously fast-moving bills.

Crude futures fell by nearly $2 a barrel Friday. Crude for February delivery lost $1.93, or 1.9%, to settle at $98.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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