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Stock indexes mostly up for week on earnings


This news story was published on April 21, 2012.
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By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch –

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks mostly advanced Friday, with two of the major indexes halting a two-week losing streak, as better-than-expected corporate results overrode global concerns.

“A lot of stock prices are being made in Europe these days, but it is a short-term phenomenon. Even though the economies are weak, they seem to be doing what they should be doing, and that sort of behavior tends to be rewarded,” said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advantage Funds.

“The market is coming to grips with what lies before it. On balance, earnings numbers are more positive than negative,” he added.

After rising as much as 118 points, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 65.16 points, or 0.5 percent, to 13,029.26, up 1.4 percent from the week-ago close and its first weekly gain in three.

Microsoft Corp. rose 4.6 percent a day after the software company said net income fell from the year-ago period, but its profit and sales topped Wall Street’s expectations.

Dow component General Electric Co. rose 1.2 percent after the aircraft-engine manufacturer and financial-services provider reported earnings that topped Wall Street’s estimates.

Up 0.6 percent on the week, the S&P 500 index climbed 1.61 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,378.53, with utilities and consumer staples leading sector gains and technology and financials lagging among its 10 industry groups.

Apple Inc. shares fell 2.5 percent to $572.98, off more than 10 percent from $644, the record intraday high reached April 10. The close under $580 sets the stage “for a fast move down to $525,” said Richard Ross, technical strategist at Auerbach Grayson & Co.

Apple’s fall weighed on the Nasdaq composite index, which turned lower in the final hour of trade, off 7.11 points, or 0.2 percent, at 3,000.45 — a level that has it off 0.4 percent from last Friday’s finish and extending its weekly losing spree to three.

The U.S. dollar fell against other global currencies, while dollar-denominated commodities rose, with crude futures closing a nickel above $103 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

But while micro concerns dominated Friday’s session, macroeconomic issues will likely continue to be in play. “The realization has grown that all of the problems of last year are still present,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments.

Milligan cited four primary concerns of investors: the outlook for the United States, Europe’s ability to keep its recession from deepening, China’s ability to navigate a soft landing, and the price of oil. “We’re particularly reassured by the breadth of sectors seeing improvements; it’s not just industrial and tech, but most sectors,” he added.

Corporate results from outside the United States are “perhaps more mixed, which is no great surprise, bearing in mind some of the weakness in parts of Asia and Europe,” Milligan said.

For Manley at Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, the real test for U.S. results comes in the third quarter. “If you look at consensus expectations for the S&P 500, the first quarter was a little better than flat, not a high hurdle,” with the same holding true for second-quarter results, he said.

But by the third quarter, expectations call for double-digit gains “and I don’t think we’ll get that,” said Manley, who believes those estimates will be scaled back in the next three to six months.

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