April 20, 2013

Tech giants bump up on middling day

Microsoft and Google each rise 3 percent as stock market indexes remain mostly unchanged.

By MATTHEW CRAFT The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Strong earnings from a pair of technology giants helped the stock market recover some of its losses Friday, a positive end to Wall Street's worst week in five months.

click image to enlarge

SeaWorld penguins are escorted by their handlers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the company’s IPO Friday. The stock rose 24 percent in its first trading day.

The Associated Press

Microsoft and Google both beat earnings expectations, yields of government bonds ticked up and copper -- a key industrial metal -- continued its fall, losing 2 percent.

Microsoft gained 3 percent to $29.77, leading the Dow Jones industrial average higher. The software giant reported earnings late Thursday that beat analysts' forecasts and showed solid results from its Office, software tools and Xbox divisions.

Google's stock climbed 3 percent to $799.87. The leader in Internet search boosted prices for ads distributed to smartphones and tablet computers.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.64 points to 1,555.25, an increase of 0.9 percent. The Dow rose 10.37 points to 14,547.51, a gain of 0.1 percent. The Dow spent most of the day down, pulled lower by disappointing results from IBM.

Friday's slight gains couldn't overcome a tough week for the market, when both the S&P 500 and the Dow lost 2.1 percent. That's their biggest weekly drop since last November.

"Compared to the rest of the week, it looks like we're going to slide into the weekend on a quiet note," said Jim Baird, Partner and Chief Investment Officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors

By many measures, the financial markets have endured a rough five days. News that economic growth had slowed in China set off a plunge in commodity prices on Monday, leading the stock market to its worst day of the year. Gold dropped below $1,400 an ounce for the first time in two years.

The stock market bounced back the next day, then fell again on Wednesday, its third worst day this year.

Most big corporations have managed to beat analysts' low expectations for first-quarter profits. Of the 104 companies that turned in results through Friday morning, 70 have trumped forecasts, according to S&P Capital IQ.

Analysts estimate that earnings for companies in the S&P 500 inched up just 2 percent over the previous year, a slowdown from the 7.7 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 2012.

SeaWorld Entertainment soared in its first day of trading as a public company. The theme park operator raised $702 million in its initial public offering, with the bulk of the money going to the Blackstone Group, the private equity firm that still controls the company. SeaWorld's stock jumped 24 percent to $33.52, up from its IPO price of $27.

On Friday, IBM fell 8 percent to an even $190. Quarterly earnings for the country's largest provider of computer services fell short of forecasts for the first time since 2005. IBM said delays in closing several large software and mainframe computer deals hindered sales. The Nasdaq composite index gained 39.69 points to 3,206.06, up 1.3 percent.

 

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