Modest rise on Wall Street

US shares inched up a day after a three-hour outage on the NASDAQ, with the Dow close to the psychologically-important 15,000 level.

The Dow was boosted by the strong performance of Microsoft today, which rose more than 6% after CEO Steve Ballmer announced that he intends to retire in the next 12 months.

In a statement, Microswoft said that Mr Ballmer, who was been in charge since 2000, would retire once a successor had been chosen. Until that time he ‘will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.’

By early afternoon in New York, the Dow had gained 0.13% or 19 points to 14,983 and the S&P 500 was at 1660.4, for a gain of 0.21%.

Trading of the NASDAQ proceeded without any fresh snags a day after an unprecedented three-hour break in trading. NASDAQ OMX Group CEO Robert Greifeld said that although the issue had been rectified, he couldn't guarantee that there wouldn't be any problems in the future. The NASDAQ 100 rose 0.63% to 3121, and shares in NASDAQ OMX bounced 0.9% after a sell-off in the wake of the problem yesterday.

A report today showed a big drop in new home sales for July, with the seasonally-adjusted annualised rate falling 13.4% to 394,000, well short of the 490,000 that had been expected. The data emphasises that there remains some fragility in the US economy and this further increases the uncertainty about what the timing might be for the Fed to start easing back on its stimulus.

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