US stocks finished higher for the week, even as intensifyingconcerns over Ukraine partially offset positive sentiment from some strongeconomic reports and accelerating Wall Street deal-making.All three indices posted increases. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 151.43(0.93 percent) to 16,512.89, while the broad-based S&P 500 advanced 17.74 (0.95percent) to 1,881.14.The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index notched the biggest increase for the week,adding 48.34 (1.19 percent) at 4,123.90.The US Federal Reserve, as expected, continued a plan to gradually taper its bond-buying stimulus program, while maintaining ultra-low interest rates.
But the US central bank also released a fairly sunny outlook, saying economicactivity "has picked up recently." The Fed's remarks helped push the Dow to its firstrecord of 2014 on Wednesday.The Commerce Department on Thursday said gross domestic product grew by astrikingly tiny 0.1 percent in the first quarter, but markets largely disregarded thefigure as backward-looking and skewed by exceptionally cold weather thatdepressed activity.
Wall Street generally smiled on Friday's US labor report, which showed the economyadded 288,000 jobs in April, far above the estimates and marked the fastest jobgrowth in more than two years."It feels that the economy is gaining steam, that growth is going to accelerate and,by and large, the Fed will remain very accommodative," said Bill Lynch, director ofinvestment at Hinsdale Associates.Yet stocks closed the week on a sour note, with all three indices posting lossesFriday following a surge of violence in Ukraine and new threats of sanctions onRussia by President Barack Obama."This Ukraine thing keeps grinding along and it doesn't appear it's going to endanytime soon," said Brent Schutte, market strategist at BMO Global AssetManagement."People are worried this could turn into something a little bit bigger."Schutte said Wall Street banks are producing more reports on Ukraine and
organizing conference calls on the situation, a sign of rising concern.The week's biggest corporate news included pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's thus-farunsuccessful effort to woo AstraZeneca in a deal worth $100 billion or more.
Pfizer opened the week with a dramatic public announcement of its interest inbuying the British company, outlining a range of advantages from a beefed-upproduct pipeline to lower taxes.Pfizer raised its bid on Friday, but AstraZeneca said no for a third time, calling thelatest $106 billion offer "inadequate.""It seems the main driver behind the deal is the desire of Pfizer to shelter $70 billionof its cash pile from US taxation rules, and that doesn't seem a sufficiently goodreason to do a deal if you are AstraZeneca," said analyst Michael Hewson of CMC
MarketsBut other major deals advanced, keeping 2014 on track to be a strong year formergers and acquisitions.
The board of French industrial giant Alstom accepted a $17 billion bid from GeneralElectric for its energy assets, giving momentum to a transaction that some Frenchgovernment officials have criticized.Also, US nuclear power generator Exelon announced a deal to buy power companyPepco Holdings for $6.83 billion in cash.Other major corporate stories included Ford Motor's announcement that MarkFields would take over on July 1 as chief executive from the departing Alan Mulally.Bank of America said it uncovered incorrect data submitted to regulators for its
most recent "stress test," an announcement that immediately prompted the Fed tohalt the bank's plans for paying dividends and buying back shares.While the balance of earnings reports continued to best expectations, there were afew noteworthy exceptions. Perhaps the biggest was Twitter, which sank to an all-time low after reporting average monthly users that lagged expectations.Next week's agenda includes a handful of major earnings reports, including AIG,Walt Disney company and Pfizer, which will undoubtedly face questions on the lateston its AstraZeneca campaign.Economic releases include the Institute for Supply Management report on theservices sector and the US trade balance. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also scheduled fora pair of appearances before congressional committees.