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US stocks waver in Friday trading; General Electric up, Intel falls

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New York:

A mixed batch of earnings reports from some of Corporate America's biggest names kept the stock market treading water Friday. General Electric (GE) and Morgan Stanley rose after turning in better report cards, while a 27 per cent drop in earnings sank Intel's stock.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up six points to 13,601 as of 2:00 pm EST.

GE led the 30 stocks in the Dow after the conglomerate reported stronger quarterly earnings, helped by orders from Brazil, Angola and other developing countries. Profits increased at all seven of its industrial segments, including oil and gas, energy management, aviation and transportation. GE rose 75 cents to $22.05.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than one point to 1,480, while the Nasdaq composite fell 8 points to 3,127.

Even though investors had plenty of news to digest, trading was largely quiet. "Earnings always matter," said Rex Macey, chief investment officer of Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors in Atlanta. "But just because we're in the middle of earnings season doesn't mean we're going to get huge market moves," he added.

The Dow and the S&P 500, a widely used benchmark for investment funds, are still headed for their third straight week of gains. The Dow is up 0.8 per cent and the S&P 0.6 per cent.

Morgan Stanley's earnings surged across its many business lines, as more companies hired the investment bank to help it raise money and line up mergers. Morgan Stanley gained 7 per cent, rising $1.54 to $22.29.

Intel, the world's biggest chipmaker, said late Thursday that fourth-quarter net income fell 27 per cent. A growing preference for smartphones and tablets, instead of personal computers and laptops powered by Intel chips, has made investors wary of the company's stock. It lost $1.56 to $21.12.

Norwegian Cruise Line soared 32 per cent in its first day of trading, the top performance of the three companies making their public debut on Friday. Five companies raised a total of $1.8 billion through initial public offerings this week, making it the best week for IPOs since early October, according to the data provider Ipreo.

American Express fell $1.24 to $59.50. Hefty charges tied to the credit card issuer's plan to cut jobs and reorganize some business lines hurt results, and revenue fell short of estimates.

Analysts forecast that companies in the S&P 500 will report a 4 per cent increase in fourth-quarter earnings over the same period the year before, according to a report out Friday from S&P Capital IQ. They say banks and other financial firms should have the strongest profit growth of any industry. Technology companies like Intel are expected to struggle.

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