Stocks close higher as Microsoft propels Dow

NEW YORK — A big jump in Microsoft helped lift the Dow Jones industrial average Friday.

Microsoft had its biggest gain in four years after CEO Steve Ballmer said he will retire. The giant software company is part of the 30-member Dow and its surge contributed more than a third of the index’s advance.

The Dow closed up 46.77 at 15,010.51. The index closed down 0.5 percent for the week and is 3.2 percent lower for the month. The S&P 500 index edged up 6.54 to 1,663.50. The Nasdaq rose 19.09 to 3,657.79.

Stocks have sagged in August on concerns that the Federal Reserve will pull back on its stimulus. The Fed has been buying $85 billion in bonds a month to hold down interest rates and encourage lending.

Facebook closes above $40 mark for first time

NEW YORK — Facebook’s stock closed above $40 for the first time Friday.

The social network’s shares have gained 53 percent since July 24, when it reported strong growth in mobile ad revenue and a solid profit during its second quarter.

Facebook announced a technology partnership Wednesday that aims to expand Internet access to the 5 billion people not currently connected. That could create more potential Facebook users.

Facebook went public in May 2012 at $38 per share. There were lofty expectations, but the company’s initial public offering was marred by trading glitches. Worries about growth prospects then weighed on shares. They bottomed at $17.55 in September.

Those fears appear to have eased. The stock closed up 5.2 percent at $40.55 Friday, touching the highest price since the day of Facebook’s IPO.

IMF: Weak nations still need central-bank aid

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — The head of the International Monetary Fund cautioned the world’s major central banks Friday not to withdraw their unconventional support for weak economies too soon.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said stimulative policies are still needed in key regions, especially Europe and Japan, which have struggled with prolonged weakness. She made the comments as part of the Federal Reserve’s annual conference.

Lagarde said central banks must carefully develop strategies for scaling back their efforts to keep borrowing rates low. Any pullback should be determined by the strength of individual economies, she said.

Her comments come as the Fed is signaling that it could slow its bond purchases later this year if the U.S. economy continues to improve.

The anticipation of a slowdown in Fed bond buying has unsettled U.S. stock and bond markets and sent interest rates up. Rising U.S. rates have, in turn, triggered turmoil in some emerging economies, such as Turkey, India and Indonesia. Officials in those countries have tried to halt declines in the value of their currencies as investors have shifted money into higher-yielding investments elsewhere.

Ex-fund manager got help from 20-plus docs

NEW YORK — A former hedge fund portfolio manager charged with carrying out a record-setting insider trading scheme was accused in a rewritten indictment Thursday of trying to corrupt over 20 doctors into providing an inside edge on a secret clinical trial.

The superseding indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan said Mathew Martoma succeeded in getting at least two doctors to provide illegal information in a scheme that stretched from 2006 to 2008 while he worked at SAC Capital Advisors. The Boca Raton, Fla., man has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud and is scheduled to appear in court Friday. He is free on bail.

Martoma was arrested in November on charges he persuaded a medical professor to leak secret data from an Alzheimer’s disease trial. Prosecutors said the inside information enabled other investment professionals at the hedge fund founded by Steven A. Cohen to earn a quarter-billion dollars illegally.

Wire reports