NEW YORK (AP) â€” Microsoft helped propel the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite higher today after a federal judge delayed implementing business restrictions against the software company.
With an hour remaining in Wall Street's regular session, the Nasdaq composite was up 36.94 at 4,050.30, building on the Tuesday gains that pushed the index to its first close above 4,000 in more than two months.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 52.32 to 10,487.48 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 0.02 at 1,475.97.
Microsoft rose $6.75 to $81.813. In a surprise move late Tuesday afternoon, a federal judge said he would delay sanctions against the company while it appeals the antitrust decision that could force it to be broken in two. The judge's initial ruling called for Microsoft to implement certain business restraints by Sept. 5. Also, the judge sent the case directly to the Supreme Court, which is close to completing its current term and may not rule for some time.
The broader technology sector was mixed. Handspring, a maker of handheld electronic organizers, made a solid if unremarkable debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Shares were priced at $20 and rose to $26.75.
Oracle fell 92.2 cents to $85.125. After the close of trading Tuesday, the company announced fiscal fourth-quarter results that handily beat expectations.
But Oracle shares have run up substantially in recent weeks, prompting some investors to take profits Wednesday. Also, analysts said some investors may have been disappointed in the relatively slow growth of Oracle's core database business.
Still, Lehman Brothers analyst Neil Herman said Oracle's prospects are very strong.
``The company was more upbeat than we can remember over the last seven years,'' Herman told clients. He rewarded Oracle by raising his earnings estimates and reiterating his ``buy'' rating.
Investors are scouring corporate earnings reports for any signs of weakness and have proven themselves ready to punish any company that misses analysts' estimates or shows any sign of slowing growth.
``Although the list of those unfortunate companies that won't achieve earnings projections has been small, they come at a bad time,'' said Alfred E. Goldman, chief market strategist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis.
Rising interest rates have begun hurting profits at a wide range of companies, and investors remain unsure of whether the Federal Reserve has finished boosting rates. The central bank, which has increased rates six times in the past year, will hold its next meeting June 27-28, and anticipation of that meeting is keeping many investors on the sidelines, analysts said.
Once the decision is announced, stocks should start rising again, Goldman said.
``We believe the Fed will not raise interest rates, but either way, the news will be on the table, and thus out of the market's way.''
Oil stocks were trading actively after OPEC members agreed to boost daily crude oil production starting in July. Oil ministers agreed to boost production by 708,000 barrels daily, or by 3 percent.
Oil prices rose on the belief that the production increase will be too little to dramatically influence prices. Oil companies followed; Exxon Mobil was up 93.75 cents at $84.188.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 4-to-3 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 791.88 million shares in the late afternoon, slightly ahead of Tuesday's pace.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 2.04 to 527.73.