A late buying spree Thursday helped push blue-chip stocks to their highest levels since early spring, but investors seemed to lack conviction that the markets have emerged from the shadow of potential interest rate hikes.
The Dow Jones industrial average, after fluctuating in and out of positive ground for much of the session, rose 38.09 points, or 0.3%, to 11,182.74, its highest close since April 11.
Broader indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2.34 points, or 0.2%, to 1,508.31, and the Nasdaq composite rose 42.27 points, or 1.1%, to 4,053.28.
With the market lacking clear direction, some investors sought safety in blue chips.
General Motors rose $3.94 to $72.88 as the company said Chief Financial Officer Michael Losh will leave Sept. 1, marking the first major management change under GM's new chief executive, Richard Wagoner.
Boeing rose $3.06 to $53.63 after a Credit Suisse First Boston analyst raised commercial aircraft companies to "market overweight" from "market weight," citing new orders.
B.F. Goodrich rose $1.94 to $41.
Other investors looked for refuge in well-known tech stocks, including Yahoo, up $6 to $139.81; EBay, up $3.56 to $61.38; Qualcomm, up $4.19 to $60.63; Hewlett-Packard, up $4.88 to $119.88; Apple Computer, up $1.80 to $56.11; and Oracle, up $1.81 to $84.69.
Advancing issues narrowly edged decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was light. Winners topped losers by an 11-9 ratio on Nasdaq.
Bond yields were little changed. The 30-year Treasury yield eased to 5.66% from 5.67%.
Among the equity highlights:
* Profit-taking hit the oil patch, as Exxon Mobil declined $1.56 to $82.94, Chevron slipped $2.69 to $86.19, USX-Marathon Group lost $1.38 to $26.69 and Amerada Hess fell $3.28 to $68.31.
* Next Level Communications got leveled, plunging $49.81 to $41.75 after a Lehman Bros. analyst cut the stock to "neutral" from "buy." He said Next Level, which provides equipment to deliver high-speed Internet access and video programming on phone lines, will get less business from Qwest Communications International, its biggest customer.
* Cysive plummeted $5.88 to $8.13 as the software engineering company said it ended a contract with a major customer that failed to pay.
* Biotech company Human Genome Sciences surged $20.75 to $158.81 after a Robertson Stephens analyst started coverage with a "buy" rating. Affymetrix gained $8.81 to $74.31 and Abgenix jumped $8.13 to $66.63.
* VA Linux advanced $6.88 to $44 as the software maker reported a narrower-than-expected loss for its latest quarter.
* Palm rose $2 to $39.94 after Goldman Sachs began coverage with a "recommend list" rating.
* Read-Rite climbed $1.75 to a 52-week peak of $7.38, leading disk-drive makers higher.
* Moog, a maker of flight-control parts, gained $2.44 to $34 after CS First Boston boosted it to "strong buy" from "buy."
* Among Southland stocks, Thousand Oaks-based HomeStore.com rose $5.63 to $46.69 as Robertson Stephens said the Internet real estate company may make a profit earlier than expected.
In foreign trading, Japan's main index rose 1.4%, Mexico's slipped 1.2% and most European indexes were down slightly.
Market Roundup, C5-6