A sharp rise in wholesale prices prompted fears about inflation, and an FDA panel voted that Merck & Co.'s Vioxx drug was safe for market, sending stocks to a mixed finish on Friday.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 30.96 points, or 0.3 percent, at 10,785.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.84 points, or 0.1 percent, at 1,201.59. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.72 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,058.62.


Wholesale prices rose in January, driven by increases in the cost of new cars, cigarettes and alcohol, a development that could lead the Federal Reserve to move toward steeper interest-rate increases. Overall, the producer price index, which measures prices received by farms, factories and refineries, rose just 0.3 percent in the month, the Labor Department said.


A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel narrowly agreed that Merck's recalled drug Vioxx was safe enough to be sold. The matter still must get the FDA's final OK, but the agency generally heeds the recommendations of its expert panels. The news sent Merck shares skyward by $3.76, or 13 percent, to $32.61.


Among local companies, Superior Industries International Inc. gained 8.9 percent to $27 after the Van Nuys-based aluminum car component manufacturer released earnings that managed to surpass analysts' expectations. The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $11.9 million (45 cents per diluted share), compared with $23.1 million (85 cents) for the like period a year earlier. Net sales for the company rose 1.6 percent to $234.5 million.


And shares of SeeBeyond Technology Corp. jumped 6.4 percent to close at $3.99 after the Monrovia-based business software provider's stock received new coverage from A.G. Edwards & Sons, which set the rating at "buy." The 12-month price target was $6 per share.


On the down side, shares of PC Mall Inc. plunged 13 percent to $13.48 after the Torrance-based direct marketer of computer products announced quarterly results. PC Mall reported a fourth-quarter loss of $42,000 (breakeven per diluted share), compared with earnings of $1.1 million (9 cents) for the like period a year earlier. Net sales for the company rose 12 percent to $325.4 million.

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