RTTNews - Despite a strong start to the session, stocks finished Friday's session on a mixed note. The day's trading was slowed by below average volume, which prompted largely limited movement in the equity markets. The major averages finished on opposite sides of the unchanged mark, with the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 showing moderate gains while the Dow slipped by a mild margin.

Some investors stayed on the sidelines amid a lull in economic data on the day, while looking forward to a slew of economic figures due out next week.

In earnings news, Research in Motion Limited (RIMM) reported adjusted first quarter earnings of $564.4 million or $0.98 per share, beating analyst estimates of $0.94 per share. The BlackBerry maker also reported a 53 percent increase in sales.

Looking ahead, RIM said expects second quarter earnings of $0.94 to $1.03 per share on revenues of $3.45 to $3.7 billion. The consensus estimates call for earnings of $0.97 per share on revenues of $3.61 billion.

Also on the tech front, Apple's (AAPL) iPhone 3GS was launched earlier today. The anticipated success of the new product line and the return of Steve Jobs as CEO, set to take place later this month, boosted the stock by 2.7 percent on the day.

In other news, Texas billionaire Sir Allen Stanford, who has been accused of perpetrating an alleged fraud worth $8 billion, was arrested by FBI agents in Virginia late on Thursday.

U.S. authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Stanford over allegations of massive fraud involving certificates of deposits issued by his Antigua-based bank, reports quoting his lawyer said.

The major averages ended the session on a lackluster note. While the Dow closed down 15.87 points or 0.2 percent at 8,539.73, the Nasdaq closed up 19.75 points or 1.1 percent at 1,827.47 and the S&P 500 closed up 2.83 points or 0.3 percent at 921.20.

Steep losses in the first two trading days of the week were largely responsible for the retreat seen by the major averages this week. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell by 2.9 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively, while the S&P 500 posted a loss of 1.7 percent.

Sector News

Considerable strength emerged in gold stocks, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index moving up by 3.3 percent on the day. The index moved away from roughly a six week low reached in the previous session.

Health insurance stocks also rose, able to extend their gains for a fourth straight session. Subsequently, the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index jumped by up 2.9 percent, closing at its best level in over five weeks.

Computer hardware stocks also saw notable gains, with the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index finishing up by 2.8 percent on the day, taking back some of its recent losses. In addition, computer, networking and software stocks rose by notable margins, reflecting the day's strength in the tech segment.

Natural gas stocks saw a considerable pullback on the day, with the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index finishing down by 2.3 percent. The day's decline pushed the index to close at its worst level in over three weeks.

Specifically, the index was dragged down by shares of Apache (APA) which slid by 3.3 percent. With the loss, the stock closed at its lowest price in nearly two months.

Further, telecommunication and healthcare provider stocks also retreated, with the NYSE Arca Telecommunications Sector Index and the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Provider Index falling by 1.8 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

Dow Components

The Dow components finished roughly split, contributing to the lackluster performance by seen by the blue chip index.

Shares of Verizon (VZN) disappointed, falling by 1.4 percent on the day. The day's retreat pushed the stock to its worst closing level in over five weeks.

Other notable pullbacks were visible in shares of Kraft Foods (KFT) and Coca-Cola (KO) which fell by 1.7 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. The decline saw the stocks offset some of the gains posted in the previous session.

Caterpillar (CAT) extended its recent losses, dropping by 1.3 percent. With the fall, the stock finished the day at its lowest price since late April.

On the other hand, Microsoft (MSFT) moved moderately higher, rising by 2.4 percent and closed at an eight month high. Further reflecting the strength in tech stocks, was Hewlett Packard (HPQ), which rose by 2.1 percent on the session. With today's jump, shares of the diversified tech product giant closed at their best level in well over five months.

Additionally, shares of Bank of America (BAC) and JP Morgan Chase (JPM) are also jumped, climbing by 2.8 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. The gains have helped the stocks to take back some of their recent losses.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia Pacific region ended Friday's session showing solid gains. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 0.9 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished up 0.8 percent.

The major European markets also finished the day higher. The French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, while the German DAX Index closed just above the unchanged mark.

In the bond markets, treasuries finished the day higher after a choppy start. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note closed at 3.789 percent, a drop of 4.5 basis points on the day.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, traders will look to the results of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting, along with key housing, employment and gross domestic product figures set to be revealed next week.

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