* Indexes on track for strong weekly gains
* U.S. and Russia engage in tit-for-tat sanctions
* Nike falls after results, Tiffany rises
* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq down 0.5 pct
(Updates to market open)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, March 21 Wall Street's upward momentum
continued on Friday, with major indexes largely rising and the
S&P 500 briefly climbing to a new record as energy and
industrial names outperformed.
Both the Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their fourth day
of gains out of the past five, and all three major indexes are
set to close out a week of strong gains.
Geopolitical issues remained in focus after President
Vladimir Putin signed laws completing Russia's annexation of
Crimea and investors took fright at a U.S. decision to slap
sanctions on his inner circle. Russia's MICEX stock index
fell about 3 percent but recovered some losses.
While some analysts say U.S. equities are vulnerable to any
escalation in geopolitical tensions with Russia, stocks were
boosted by Moscow's assertion that no other Ukrainian region
would be subject to intervention.
"The path of least resistance for markets is up, and so far
it doesn't think the Ukraine issue is too big of a negative
since no one really thinks that Putin will do anything too
drastic," said Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global
Investors Inc in San Antonio. "Of course if things do heat up,
it would really become a headwind for markets."
Companies tied to the pace of economic growth were among the
biggest gainers Friday, with energy and industrial
shares rallying. Joy Global Inc jumped 3
percent to $56.79 while Halliburton Co was up 1.4
percent to $58.19.
On the downside, Nike Inc late Thursday said growing
pressures from weak emerging market currencies would take a toll
on its profit. The athletic apparel maker, which gets about 30
percent of revenue from emerging markets, also said China sales
would be unchanged or slightly down this quarter. Shares fell 3
percent to $76.82.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 46.21 points,
or 0.28 percent, at 16,377.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 5.21 points, or 0.28 percent, at 1,877.22. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 20.27 points, or 0.47
percent, at 4,299.02.
The S&P 500 briefly climbed to a record high of 1,883.97,
just barely over its previous record of 1,883.57. If the index's
current levels hold, that would represent a record close. For
the week, both the Dow and S&P are up 2 percent while the Nasdaq
is up 1.4 percent.
Symantec Corp shares weighed on the Nasdaq,
tumbling 13 percent to $18.16 a day after it fired Chief
Executive Steve Bennett, the second time it has sacked its top
executive in less than two years.
WellPoint Inc raised its earnings outlook, saying it
expected strong membership growth. Shares rose 1.1 percent to
Despite recent strength, volume has been anemic on positive
market days, suggesting limited conviction behind the move.
However, volume is expected to surge on Friday as options expire
alongside multiple index rebalances. Credit Suisse estimates $14
billion in gross trading from the S&P 500 index rebalance, with
another $6 billion from rebalancing in other indexes.
In earnings news, Tiffany & Co reported adjusted
fourth-quarter earnings and gave a profit outlook that were
below estimates. However, shares rose 2.3 percent to
$93.23. Darden Restaurants Inc reported
third-quarter results largely in line with expectations and
affirmed its plan to divest its Red Lobster business. Shares
rose 2.6 percent to $50.61.
Lin Media LLC jumped 21 percent to $25.98. Media
General Inc agreed to buy the company for $1.6 billion.
Media General jumped 6.1 percent to $18.39.
The U.S. Federal Reserve late Thursday said big U.S. banks
have enough capital buffers to withstand a drastic economic
downturn. The central bank said 29 out of 30 major banks met the
minimum hurdle in its annual health check.
The only bank to fall under the 5 percent requirement for
top-tier capital was Zion Bancorp, which said it would
resubmit a capital plan to the Fed. Shares of Zion fell 2.4
percent to $32.20.
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)