Stocks closed higher for the week after investors spent the day mulling over yesterday's speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, edging slowly back toward 9,000, gained 59.99 or 0.67 percent to close at 8,975.46, while the technology-laden Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 19.46 or 1.06 percent, to 1,856.56.
With little earnings news, there was no major financial news steering the market today. Also absent were the market-moving jobs figures that normally are released on Friday, but which were accidentally posted yesterday on the Labor Department's Web site.
Investors were still trying to find a hint in Greenspan's speech as to whether the Fed will move to lower key interest rates at its November 17 meeting. Many analysts were saying the Fed will cut rates, while others don't expect any further cuts soon.
"Greenspan was less alarmed about what is happening overseas," said Norma Yaeger, president of Yaeger Capital Markets. "The desperation seems to be over but he's still cautious.
"My impression is that he was not saying anything about lower or increasing the rates," said Yaeger. "Either way, he seems to be in a wait-and-see status."
While most technology stocks inched higher today, one biotechnology issue exploded. Geron, which yesterday announced it had succeeded in cultivating human stem cells--the progenitors of all the different cells found in the human body--jumped 74.05 percent. It was the most actively traded issue on the Nasdaq market, with 41.1 million shares traded today.
Another strong showing included Inktomi, the company that runs a popular search engine, whose shares surged today to a new 52-week high, rising 15.5 percent to 105.25. The stock had previously traded as high as 93.75, and as low as 30.75 since it went public in June at $18 per share.
Dell Computer, Compaq Computer, and Intel gained 0.19 percent, 1.4 percent, and 1.53 percent, respectively. Networking company Ascend Communications dipped a quarter percent, while MCI Worldcom and Oracle dropped 0.89 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.
"Traders are more cautious today, mainly because how high can you push these stocks without taking a breath?" said Yaeger.