CORRECTED-US STOCKS-Tech helps Nasdaq; Dow, S&P off on Ireland

(In Dec 17 item, corrects Michael Gault’s attribution to
Weiser Capital Management in paragraph 4)

* Moody’s downgrades Ireland by five notches

* Nasdaq helped by strong results from Oracle, RIM

* Canada’s BMO to buy Marshall & Ilsley for $4.1 bln

* Dow off 0.2 pct, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates to afternoon trading)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Dec 17 (BestGrowthStock) – The S&P 500 and Dow were
slightly lower on Friday amid renewed concerns over euro zone
debt, but strong results in the tech sector helped keep the
Nasdaq in positive territory.

Moody’s downgraded Ireland’s ratings by five notches,
hitting European bank shares hard. Euro zone leaders have
agreed on how to resolve debt crises from 2013, but failed to
reassure markets about what they will do in the short term.
For details, see [ID:nLDE6BG0EG]

U.S.-listed shares of Allied Irish Bank (AIB.N: ) fell 3.9
percent to $1.24 while Barclays (BCS.N: ) dropped 2.7 percent to
$16.15. However, the impact on U.S. shares not directly linked
to the Irish situation were limited.

“There are more shoes to drop in Europe, but precedent has
been set to help these countries. That’s why equity markets
aren’t reacting significantly negatively to the news,” said
Michael Gault, a senior portfolio strategist at the New
York-based Weiser Capital Management, which has about $150
million in assets under management.

“Unless that support won’t be there, I think investors will
in general be able to shake off the news and find positives,
like the tech results,” he added.

Shares of both Oracle Corp (ORCL.O: ) and Research in Motion
(RIMM.O: ) (RIM.TO: ) rallied a day after they posted strong
quarterly results. Oracle also issued an upbeat forecast.

Oracle gained 5.5 percent to $31.94 while U.S.-listed
shares of RIM were up 3.4 percent to $61.23. [ID:nN16257524]
and [ID:nN1794135]

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) was down 20.59
points, or 0.18 percent, at 11,478.66. The Standard & Poor’s
500 Index (.SPX: ) was up 0.25 points, or 0.02 percent, at
1,243.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) was up 8.21
points, or 0.31 percent, at 2,645.52.

Regional banks traded higher after Canada’s Bank of
Montreal (BMO.TO: ) agreed to buy Marshall & Ilsley Corp (MI.N: )
for $4.1 billion, sending the stock up 18 percent to $6.84.
[ID:nN1744360]

Peer regional bank KeyCorp (KEY.N: ) climbed 3.2 percent to
$8.35 while Regions Financial (RF.N: ) added 3.4 percent to
$6.34. [ID:nN1744360]

The KBW Regional Banks index (.KRX: ) rose 0.7 percent and
has risen more than 13 percent this year, including a gain of
more than 12 percent in December alone despite continued debt
woes from European banks.

Mergers and acquisitions are up for the first full year
since 2007 and may mark the start of a new, multiyear M&A
cycle, with emerging economies accounting for a bigger share of
global dealmaking, according to Thomson Reuters data.
[ID:nLDE6BE0QQ] and [ID:nN16241182]

With the S&P 500 up 5 percent in December, some technical
analysts say the market is due for a pullback before the year’s
end.

“We’ve had an unanswered rally in the market for months
now, and our great fundamental news is being offset by
technical conditions,” said Wayne Wilbanks, chief investment
officer of Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas in Norfolk, Virginia, which
has $1.7 billion assets under management.

“We’re above both the 50-day and 200-day moving averages,
and that’s offsetting and nullifying the good news that’s
coming out on earnings.”

Market volume and volatility could increase later in the
day as traders adjust or exercise derivative positions on four
different types of expiring equity futures and options
contracts, also know as “quadruple witching.”

CORRECTED-US STOCKS-Tech helps Nasdaq; Dow, S&P off on Ireland