Stock markets in the United States fluctuated and eventually ended the week higher as stocks in the technology sector gained, offsetting the losses in equities of companies in the utilities sector.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gained 0.20%, the S&P 500 went up by 0.15% and the NASDAQ rose 0.50% on Friday.

In a telephone interview with Bloomberg, Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer at First American Trust, commented, “The market is just trying to find footing. You’ve seen the market changing its mind throughout the day quite a bit recently. That’s indicative of people trying to search for direction.”

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the number of individuals who filed for unemployment benefits declined to 319,000 last week, which is lower than the estimate of economists.

Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen told the U.S. Congress that rates are unlikely to increase unless economic growth becomes stronger.  On the other hand, The European Central Bank (ECB) indicated that it might reduce interest rates next month if necessary.

Philippe Gijsels, chief strategy officer at BNP Paribas Fortis, opined, “It’s a mixed picture in terms of earnings. What we got from the ECB yesterday was clearly positive, but underneath the positive tone from the market, there are some worrying issues.”

U.S. Markets

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)- 16,583.34 (+0.20%%)
  • S&P 500- 1,878.47 (+0.15 %)
  • NASDAQ- 4,071.87 (+0.50%)
  • Russell 2000- 1,105.29 (+0.72%)

European Markets

  • EURO STOXX 50 Price EUR- 3,184.09 (-0.63%)
  • FTSE 100 Index- 6,814.57 (-0.36%)
  • Deutsche Borse AG German Stock Index DAX- 9,581.45 (-0.27%)

Asia-Pacific Markets

  • Nikkei 225- 14,199.59 (+0.25%)
  • Hong Kong Hang Seng Index- 21,862.99 (+0.12%)
  • Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index- 2,133.91 (-0.07%)

Stocks in Focus

The stock price of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) slightly declined to $584.55 due to reports that the iPhone and iPad maker is in advanced talks to acquire Beats Electronics, the maker of the popular Beats headphone and earphones, for $3.2 billion.

Shares of Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ:SYMC) increased more than 3% to $20.85 per share after the company reported better than expected earnings for the fourth quarter. The company posted 41 cents in adjusted earnings per share on $1.65 billion in revenue. Zacks analysts expected the company to deliver 38 cents in earnings per share. Its revenue was in line with their estimate. For the first quarter of the fiscal 2015 year, Symantec forecast that it will be able to generate adjusted earnings in the range of 41 cents to 43 cents per share and revenue of around $1.65 billion to $1.69 billion.

The stock price of The Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) gained more than 3% to $40.50 per share after the company reported that its comparable store states in April increased 9%. The retailer also estimated that its earnings for the first quarter will be around 56 cents to 57 cents per share, higher than the 53 cents earnings per share consensus estimate.

Shares of Ralph Lauren Corp (NYSE:RL) fell more than 2% to $148.81 per share after the company reported that its comparable store sales dropped 2% in the fourth quarter and issued lower than expected earning guidance for its fiscal 2015.