NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rose modestly Friday after late news of merger talks among two semiconductor companies boosted the technology sector and helped major indexes snap a four-day losing streak.
The Wall Street Journal reported chipmaker Intel is in talks to buy rival Altera, citing people familiar with the matter, sending the PHLX semiconductor index up 2.8 percent.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-We've seen a lot of M&A news recently and it's helping the market.%Intel (INTC) shares jumped 6.4 percent to $32 as the biggest boost to the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 indexes. Altera (ALTR) shares surged 28.4 percent to $44.39.
"We've seen a lot of M&A news recently and it's helping the market," said Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management in San Francisco.
"There is definitely an M&A cycle going on, so that is a good thing."
Equity markets were largely unfazed by Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments at a monetary policy conference in San Francisco. She said the U.S. Federal Reserve is giving "serious consideration" to beginning to reduce its accommodative monetary policy and a rate hike may be warranted later this year, although a downturn in core inflation or wage growth could force it to hold off.
"I don't think there is anything new or different here," said Massocca.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 34.43 points, or 0.19 percent, to 17,712.66, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 4.87 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,061.02 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 27.86 points, or 0.57 percent, to 4,891.22.
Health care also helped buoy indexes as biotech stocks bounced 1.9 percent higher after suffering a 7 percent drop in the prior four sessions, while energy was the worst performing S&P sector as crude prices resumed their decline.
Looming Earnings Season
Investors have been cautious ahead of the start of earnings season, as traders look to see how much the strong U.S. dollar will hurt corporations' bottom lines. For the week, the S&P 500 fell 2.2 percent, the Dow lost 2.3 percent and the Nasdaq declined 2.7 percent.
U.S. consumer sentiment fell month-over-month in March, a survey released on Friday showed, though the decline was smaller than forecast.
The final reading of gross domestic product for the last quarter of 2014 was unchanged at a 2.2 percent rate of expansion. After-tax corporate profits fell at a 1.6 percent rate in the fourth quarter as a strong dollar dented the earnings of multinationals.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,842 to 1,187, for a 1.55-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,592 issues rose and 1,106 fell, for a 1.44-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 6 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 38 new highs and 38 new lows.
Volume was light, with about 5.66 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well below the 6.78 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.
What to watch Monday:
Cal-Maine Foods (CALM) reports quarterly financial results before U.S. markets open.
The Commerce Department releases personal income and spending for February at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The National Association of Realtors releases pending home sales index for February at 10 a.m.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas releases its survey of manufacturing conditions in Texas at 10:30 a.m.
Ultimate Cheapskate's 10 Ways to Save Money on Travel
Market Wrap: Wall Street Ends 4-Day Skid on Late Tech Rally
If you're flexible and love the sheer adventure of travel, you'll also love Kayak's Explore tool as much as I do. It instantly maps all airfares available within your specified budget to destinations worldwide. You enter the month or season you want to travel -- and the maximum amount you have to spend on a ticket -- and it shows you all the places you can fly to for that amount or less. You can even search by the activities or weather you're looking for in a destination. I think that Kayak Explore should be the first stop when planning a true travel adventure.
The best travel agent you can have isn't a travel agent at all, but rather someone who lives in the place you want to visit. Sure, it would be great if they invited you to stay with them, but just their knowledge and advice can save you a bundle and help you really enjoy and get to know a place. Thanks to the internet, you can now get to know someone almost any place on the planet before you even leave home. Social network sites like TravBuddy.com, BeWelcome.org, WAYN.com and Couchsurfing.com can put you in touch with people living in the places you'll be traveling to, as well as fellow travelers.
In the spring and fall, many cruise ship companies "reposition" their fleets to different parts of the world to meet seasonal market demands. For example, ships that have been cruising during the winter months off the coast of Central and South America might head north for the summer cruising season in Alaska.
That means flexible travelers can go along on a one-way ride for a fraction of the cost per day compared to most regular cruises. Of course, you'll have to find your own way home -- or maybe just hang out at the terminus point for six months and catch a repositioning cruise in the opposite direction in the fall.
Putting in a few hours of work during your travels can not only score you a free place to stay (and maybe some meals, too), but it can be an interesting experience and a good way to meet locals and fellow travelers alike. Websites like Workaway.info and Helpx.net list part-time, (usually) unpaid work opportunities all around the world that can nicely fit a flexible traveler's schedule, lifestyle and budgetary limitations.
And by joining Trustedhousesitters.com, you're eligible to apply for housesitting gigs worldwide, giving you a free place to stay in exchange for watching over someone's house (and, usually, their pets) while they're away.
With most airlines now charging a fortune for checked bags, keeping luggage to a minimum is a must. Plus, I've always found that traveling light makes for a more enjoyable trip. My packing rule is simple: Unless you know that you're absolutely going to need and use an item, don't bring it with you if it's something that you can buy during your travels, should the need arise. Pack your bags a couple of days before you leave home, and then drive to a shopping mall and haul them around for an hour or so (or until the mall cops stop you); I'll bet after that you'll discover at least a few things you can just as soon leave at home. And after your trip, "audit your luggage," making a note of things you regret having brought with you so you won't make the same mistake next time.
If you're going to drive a long distance in a relatively short period of time, in the long run the most cost-effective option might be to rent a car rather drive your own. Since most rental car companies offer unlimited mileage, when you factor in the cost of wear and tear on your own car (i.e. "reduced lifespan"), renting a car is usually the best option for trips where you'll drive, say, a thousand or more miles during a week.
Plus, you might be able to rent a car that's more fuel-efficient than your own, saving even more. And remember that the insurance coverage you carry on your own car probably covers you when you rent a car for non-business use, so you can skip the expensive insurance offered by the rental company (but check your insurance policy first, just to make sure).
Picking up snacks at gas stations and convenience stores as you travel can add up to a very unappetizing expense during the course of even a short road trip. Instead, stock up on drinks and snacks before you leave home or at grocery stores during your travels. Even if you're flying somewhere, investing in an inexpensive cooler once you've arrived at your destination is almost guaranteed to more than pay for itself while you're there. And if you imbibe, don't forget to BYOB ("Bring Your Own Booze"); the markup on beer, wine and liquor in most bars and restaurants -- even in non-touristy areas - is typically 400 percent or more.
If I buy souvenirs at all during my travels, I always look for something that's practical -- something that I'll actually use -- rather than waste money on some tourist tchotchke that will immediately go into cold storage as soon as I get home. Clothing, food delicacies, artwork/home décor items or a CD of local music are among my favorite souvenirs. And I always check out thrift stores, flea markets and even yard sales when I travel, which are great places to finding interesting local items for dirt cheap. I once bought a ceramic wall hanging at a thrift store in Los Angeles for $8, which turned out to be by a deceased California artist and appraised at $1,400 when I got it home.
When I travel by car, I often take my own bicycle with me, and when I fly someplace where I plan to stay for at least a few days, one of my first stops is at a local thrift store to pick up an inexpensive used bike. I can't even begin to calculate how much this has saved me in taxi fares, car rentals, and even public transportation over the years. Plus, it's a great way to get to see and know a place, while squeezing in a little workout at the same time.
And when it's time to fly home, you can either donate the bike back to the thrift store for a tax deduction, or maybe make some kid's day by asking him if he wants a free bike.
Other than maybe an airline ticket, chances are that lodging will be most travelers' single largest expense. Use websites like Airbnb.com, VRBO.com and Booking.com to find privately owned apartments, homes and rooms for rent; most include access to a fully equipped kitchen, so you can save even more by cooking some of your own meals.
Hostels (HIUSA.org) provide inexpensive dorm-style accommodations -- although many now offer private rooms as well -- and are open to travelers of all ages. And register with Couchsurfing.com to tap into a worldwide network of fellow travelers who will let you crash on their couch (or often in a spare bedroom) for free!