Friday, April 17, 2009

Stocks extend advance

Stocks inched higher Friday as better-than-expected earnings from Citigroup, General Electric and Google, helped stretch the recent advance to a sixth straight week.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 6 points or less than 0.1%. The S&P 500 (SPX) index rose 4 points or 0.5%. Both ended at more than two-month highs.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) gained 2 points or 0.2%, ending at a more than five-month high.

Stocks, as represented by the S&P 500, have gained 28.5% in the past six weeks, on bets that the economy is closer to stabilizing. The gains followed a selloff that left the S&P 500 at a 12 1/2 year low. A rash of better-than-expected profit reports has helped sentiment this week.

The six week run is the market's best since May 2007, said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

"No matter what is thrown at the market, it seems to want to chug higher, which is a big change in psychology from last fall or even earlier this year," Detrick said.

However, he noted that even if the rally proves to be more than a bear market bounce, at six weeks old, it's starting to look ripe for a pullback on a technical basis.

Quarterly results: Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) reported a quarterly profit Friday morning, due to strength in its investment banking division. But after paying out preferred dividends, results amounted to a per-share loss of 18 cents. Nonetheless, that was smaller than the 34-cent per share loss analysts expected. Shares of the Dow component fell 9%.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) and Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) both reported weaker quarterly profit that beat estimates earlier this week. Last week, Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) forecast that it would report a $3 billion profit.

Regional Bank BB&T (BBT, Fortune 500) reported a weaker quarterly profit that nonetheless handily topped analysts' forecasts. The company also said loan losses are lessening. Shares gained 11%.

Dow component General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) reported weaker quarterly earnings that beat estimates on weaker quarterly sales that missed forecasts. Weakness in the company's finance unit countered mixed results at other divisions. Shares gained 1%.

After the close Thursday, Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) posted quarterly earnings that rose from a year ago and topped estimates on revenue that rose from a year ago but was shy of forecasts. Shares rose 1% Friday morning.

In other company news, General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) CEO Fritz Henderson said that the company will announce more job cuts and plant closings in the next few weeks. The company has until June 1 to reach agreements with its creditors and unions if it wants to avoid a government-mandated bankruptcy. Shares fell 4%.

Market breadth was positive. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners beat losers two to one on volume of 1.95 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, advancers topped decliners eight to five on volume of 2.43 billion shares.

Economy: The April consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan rose to 61.9 from 57.3 in March. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com thought the index would rise to 58.5.

Bonds: Treasury prices fell, raising the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 2.94% from 2.83% Thursday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Other markets: In global trading, Asian and European markets ended higher.

In currency trading, the dollar gained versus the euro and fell against the yen.

U.S. light crude oil for May delivery rose 35 cents to settle at $50.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

COMEX gold for June delivery fell $11.90 to settle at $867.90 an ounce.

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