Today: Google (GOOG) roars to all-time high prices on Wall Street as it offers solutions to European issues. Also: Jobs report sparks markets, sends Dow above 14,000, but Apple (AAPL) and Facebook still fall.

Google hits new highs as it seeks to solve European issues

Records fell across Wall Street on Friday, as the Dow Jones industrial average crested 14,000 for the first time since the Great Recession and Mountain View search giant Google attained new high prices.

Google's spurt was stronger than the overall market's, as the Internet giant gained 2.7 percent and hit all-time intraday and closing highs at $776.60 and $775.60, respectively. Google's stock has been tending upward in 2013, with a boost from its recent earnings report, which showed an increase in the amount Google pulls in for every click on an ad, a metric that had been declining.

"If this continues to get better," Edward Jones investment firm analyst Josh Olson said at the time of the earnings release, "we can see there's light at the end of the tunnel."


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Friday's rise for Google was likely fueled less by overall investor giddiness or advertising revenues, however, as the company seemed to be on the verge of solving its issues in Europe. After resolving antitrust charges in the United States in a deal with the Federal Trade Commission late last year, Google gave the European Commission investigating its core search business a list of changes it is willing to make to avoid charges of illegally using its standing as the dominant search engine.

Google's offer included specific labels for its own services in search results, to solve competitors' complaints about Google's preference for its own products, as well as trimming restrictions on advertisers, according to an unnamed Reuters source. The commission in charge of the investigation, which has lasted for two years, said it was analyzing Google's offer.

Google also settled a challenge from the French media, which wanted the company to pay licensing fees for linking to content. To avoid such a precedent, Google agreed to put $82 million into a fund that will help the companies learn to deal with the new media environment on the Internet. Google settled a similar case in Belgium, but still faces the same issue in Germany.

If Google can put to rest the antitrust investigation and anger from European news organizations, the issues it has faced in Europe for years could finally be behind the company, with one exception -- countries' anger about the amount of tax the company pays. While Great Britain has grilled a Google executive on the topic and France and Italy are pushing for big tax bills, Google has simply maintained that it follows national and international laws with its tax payments.

With Friday's record-breaking bump, Google has now gained 9.6 percent so far in 2013, but analysts project it will continue to rise. The 42 Google analysts tracked by Marketwatch have an average price target -- the price at which they believe investors should sell Google stock for maximum return -- of $830.45, and all have either "Buy" or "Hold" ratings on the stock.

Jobs report, other strong economic reports spurs Dow's milestone

The Dow's 14,000 feat brings it in line with the Standard & Poor's 500, which has ridden the hot start to 2013 to pass its own milestone number of 1,500. While many professional investors and analysts are unable to care less about big, round numbers for the indexes -- Gordon Asset Management managing partner Joe Gordon called 14,000 "meaningless to the average professional" -- the achievement could draw in smaller investors who have stayed out of the markets since the subprime mortgage crisis.

"The Dow touching 14,000, it matters psychologically," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, told The Associated Press. "It attracts smaller investors."

The bounce that sent the Dow to its mark seemed to stem from Friday morning's release of the January jobs report, which showed continuing modest growth in the U.S. labor market. The Commerce Department reported that 157,000 jobs were added in January, despite a slight uptick in the unemployment rate to 7.9 from 7.8. The report also pushed previously reported totals up, with estimated job gains for the final two months of 2012 increasing from a total of 316,000 to 443,000. Disappointing totals from earlier in 2012 were also adjusted, The New York Times pointed out, though there are still more than 12 millions unemployed Americans searching for work.

"The market is greeting the jobs numbers very happily," Wayne Wilbanks, chief investment officer at Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas Asset Management, noted to Bloomberg News.

Other economic indicators were positive as well, with manufacturing picking up and consumer spending strong, as seen in continuing hot car sales in January.

"All the data seems to keep pointing to a slowly, steadily improving economy," Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management, told Reuters.

Apple and Facebook are left out of the rally, but Oracle gains

Tech stocks were not left out of Friday's bounce, with the SV150 gaining 1.2 percent to match the movement of the major stock indexes. Two prominent valley companies did fall despite the general positivity Friday, however: Apple and Facebook.

Apple lost another 0.4 percent, kicking off February just as it performed in January, when it was the worst performer in the Standard & Poor's 500. There was good news in Cupertino, though, as phone shipments in the final quarter of 2012 gave Apple the title of most phones sold in the U.S. for the first time in the company's history.

Facebook, which suffered large losses Thursday before recovering, couldn't maintain its $30 price level Friday, falling 4 percent to $29.73. The social-media sector was weak in general, with Yelp dropping 3.6 percent, Zynga declining 1.9 percent and LinkedIn trading flat.

Most valley companies did join in Friday's rally, however. Oracle (ORCL) gained 1.9 percent after BMO Capital analyst Karl Keirstead upgraded the company, writing that "Oracle shares represent compelling value even after the recent run from $30 to $35." Splunk gained 2.9 percent and NetApp rose 0.7 percent after both were mentioned again as possible targets for an IBM acquisition.

Silicon Valley tech stocks

Up: SolarCity, VMware, Electronic Arts (ERTS), Splunk, Gilead, Google, eBay (EBAY), Tesla, Applied Materials, Oracle, Symantec, Intel (INTC), Adobe (ADBE), Cisco

Down: Facebook, Yelp, Zynga, Palo Alto Networks, Apple, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Juniper, Netflix

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 36.97, or 1.18 percent, to 3,179.1

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 149.21, or 1.08 percent, to 14,009.79

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 15.06, or 1.01 percent, to 1,513.17

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.