Wall St. rises on Nike, lower dollar; Nasdaq hits 15-year high

By Reuters

Mar 20, 2015 09:36 PM EDT

U.S. stocks rose on Friday, pushing the Nasdaq to a 15-year high and helping the S&P 500 snap a three-week string of losses, following a pullback in the dollar, upbeat results from Nike and further biotech gains.

Recent sharp gains in the U.S. dollar .DXY have increased worries about the currency's impact on the earnings of U.S. multinationals. S&P 500 earnings projections for the first quarter and for 2015 have fallen sharply since Jan. 1.

Among early reporters, Nike (NKE.N) jumped 3.7 percent to $101.98 as the biggest boost to the Dow after it posted a quarterly profit that beat market estimates. The world's largest sportswear maker sold more higher-margin shoes and apparel but warned that the stronger dollar would take a toll on its current quarter.

Energy led gains in the S&P 500, with the S&P energy index .SPNY ending up 1.4 percent following a 4 percent rise in U.S. crude oil CLc1.

Stocks trimmed gains ahead of the close, dragged down by a 1.3 percent fall in Apple (AAPL.O), which began trading in the Dow on Thursday.

Largely behind this week's gains was Wednesday's Federal Reserve statement, which signaled a less aggressive approach to raising interest rates than investors had expected.

"The Federal Reserve's created a situation where there's very little alternative to equities, so the path of least resistance for stocks will be up for a period of time," said Robert Lutts, president, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Massachusetts.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 168.62 points, or 0.94 percent, to 18,127.65, and the S&P 500 .SPX gained 18.83 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,108.10. The Nasdaq Composite.IXIC added 34.04 points, or 0.68 percent, to 5,026.42, a 15-year high.

The dollar .DXY was off 1.5 percent against a basket of major currencies.

For the week, the Dow gained 2.1 percent while the S&P 500 rose 2.7 percent, both snapping a three-week run of losses. The Nasdaq ended up 3.2 percent.

The Nasdaq ended just 22 points from its record closing high, while the S&P 500 ended less than 10 points below its record close.

The Nasdaq biotech index .NBI rose for an eighth straight session, gaining 7.4 percent since March 10. It climbed 0.5 percent on Friday, powered by a 9.8 percent climb in Biogen Idec (BIIB.O) to $475.98 after the company said its experimental drug became the first Alzheimer's treatment to significantly slow cognitive decline and reduce brain plaque in patients with early and mild forms of the disease.

Tiffany & Co. (TIF.N) shares lost 4 percent to $82.93 after the upscale jeweler said quarterly sales fell for the first time in five years and are expected to decline further in the current quarter.

Friday also marked the expiration of stock options, index options, index futures and single-stock futures, known as quadruple witching.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,452 to 632; on the Nasdaq, 1,661 issues rose and 1,116 fell.

Volume was high. About 9.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 6.6 billion daily average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

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