Holiday Getaway Slows Markets

Market activity slowed on both the NASDAQ and Dow Jones on the Friday before the long Christmas holiday weekend.

The NASDAQ was up by 1.74 to 2,248.23 at midday on light volume following Thursday’s strong close.

By far, the biggest stock story of the day was Affiliated Computer Services , which is reportedly in talks for a sale.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that a consortium of investment firms is in talks to acquire outsourcing company Affiliated Computer Services for about $8 billion.

Citing anonymous sources, the story said the deal could be reached as early as next week, assuming the investment group leading the deal, Texas Pacific Group as well as Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group, hammer out a final deal.

Shares of Affiliated were up by $2.46, or 4.24 percent, at $60.54 by midday Friday.

Shares of Linux distribution leader Red Hat were up by about 11 cents to $27.91 Friday after a two day gain of 7 percent this week. Red Hat beat earnings and sales estimates on a 54 percent jump in subscription revenue when it released earnings Wednesday.

Research in Motion , maker of the Blackberry wireless e-mail devices, was off slightly by $1.13 to $67.09 Friday after getting a boost the day before on strong earnings results.

As reported Thursday, RIM showed little effect from its patent battle with NTP, with earnings of 71 cents a share on a 53 percent jump in sales. The company beat estimates and raised February quarter guidance. RIM also added 645,000 subscribers in the quarter, which brings its total to 4.3 million.

Shares of Microsoft had slipped by 7 cents to $26.52 midday after NBC Universal said it would up its stake in MSNBC, the joint cable channel operation Microsoft has with NBC.

Shares of NBC’s parent company General Electric were up by 6 cents to $35.48.

Other news for the market to digest Friday came from the Commerce Department, which said factory orders for big-ticket items rose by 4.4 percent to $223 billion in November. That’s after rising by 3 percent the month before. Commerce called it the biggest one-month jump since May.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off by 1.44 at 10,888 on light volume of 960 million shares.Volume on the NASDAQ was 741 million.

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