Online Ad Mergers Push S&P Near Record

The latest online advertising merger — this one a blockbuster deal between Microsoft and aQuantive — pushed the S&P 500 within five points of its all-time closing high of 1527.46 set March 24, 2000.

The $6 billion deal was the second in the online ad space in two days and one of several in recent weeks, spurred by Google’s grab of DoubleClick last month. ValueClick gained on speculation that it could be next.

Ironically, it was technology and Internet stocks that drove the market to unsustainable heights in the roaring 1990s. This time around, however, the survivors of the brutal downturn of 2000-2002 are focused more on profits than on eyeballs, raising the odds that the advance might be sustainable this time.

Intuit was another tech sector gainer Friday, surging 14% on earnings and sales that beat expectations.

Intel gained 2% on a Merrill Lynch upgrade to buy from neutral based on the company’s improving fortunes, and IBM climbed on a UBS upgrade.

Priceline , Verizon and Riverbed benefited from Citigroup upgrades, while Juniper shed 2% on a downgrade by the Wall Street firm.

Autodesk gained on its numbers, while Marvell , CalAmp and Sonic Solutions slumped on their quarterly results.

The Nasdaq rose 19 to 2558, the S&P 500 climbed 10 to 1522, and the Dow gained 79 to 13,556. Volume rose to 2.94 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.06 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancing issues led by a 20-12 margin on the NYSE, and 19-11 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 73% on the NYSE, and 66% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 266-33 on the NYSE, and 138-93 on the Nasdaq.

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