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Tech news weighs on stocks

Dow's big gains erased by SanDisk's cautious comments.

NEW YORK - Stocks closed mixed yesterday after weakness in the technology sector punctured some of the market's enthusiasm over a report that suggested the economy could still be growing.

But comments from memory-chip-maker SanDisk Corp. about soft sales helped pull stocks off their highs and sent tech shares lower. The Dow Jones industrial average, which had been up more than 100 points, finished well below that.

The Conference Board's leading economic indicators report showed a 0.1 percent rise for April, after a similar uptick in March. The index, aimed at predicting economic activity in the next three to six months, bolstered investors' belief that the overall economy, while weak, is positioned for recovery.

After five months of declines in the leading indicators, some investors were concerned that March's increase was an anomaly - so April's advance was met with relief, said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors L.L.C.

But technology shares tugged at the market after SanDisk issued cautious comments at a JPMorgan Chase & Co. technology conference yesterday, said Neil Massa, senior trader at MFC Global Investment Management Ltd. in Boston. SanDisk fell $2.42, or 7.46 percent, to $30.02.

The Dow rose 41.36, or 0.32 percent, to 13,028.16. The S&P 500 advanced 1.28, or 0.09 percent, to 1,426.63, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 12.76, or 0.50 percent, to 2,516.09.

The dollar rose against most other major currencies, while gold prices also climbed.

Light, sweet crude rose 76 cents to settle at a record $127.05 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price of a gallon of regular gasoline topped $4 for the first time in some metropolitan areas. Still, energy did not seem as large of a concern as in some recent sessions.

Financial shares also pulled back after the market came off its highs. Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. fell $1.14, or 2.33 percent, to $47.71, while Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. fell 85 cents to close at $42.79.

In other corporate news, Microsoft Corp. has renewed talks with Yahoo Inc. about a possible deal to bolster the companies' position in the online search and advertising markets. The companies appear to be exploring possible arrangements outside of a direct tie-up. Microsoft fell 53 cents to close at $29.46, and Yahoo rose 2 cents to close at $27.68.

General Motors Corp. rose after one of its biggest suppliers reached a tentative labor deal with the United Auto Workers. The agreement with American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. may end a nearly three-month strike by 3,650 U.S. hourly workers. GM advanced 19 cents to close at $20.87.

Lowe's Cos. Inc. posted a first-quarter profit decline and issued an outlook for the year that came in below analyst estimates. The second-largest home-improvement chain fell 64 cents, or 2.57 percent, to $24.25.