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Better-than-expected earnings from major companies guided the benchmarks to a finish in the green on Friday. The S&P 500 finished at a record high for the second consecutive day. Following a last-minute deal which ended the government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, investors have now shifted their focus to corporate earnings. Investor sentiment also received a lift after China’s GDP grew appreciably in the third quarter. The technology sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups, led by tech giant Google. The health care sector was the only loser.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article         

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.2% to close the day at 15,399.65. The S&P 500 added 0.7% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,744.50. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 1.3% to end at 3,914.28. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 3.4% to settle at 13.04. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 5.57 billion shares, considerably lower than 2013’s average of 6.0 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 70% shares that advanced, only 28% declined. 

The Dow gained 1.1%, the S&P 500 climbed 2.4% and the Nasdaq jumped 3.2% over the week. The previous week’s gains were driven by the successful debt ceiling deal and end to the sixteen-day long partial government shutdown. On Friday, stocks gained on the back of encouraging earnings from major companies. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq logged their best weekly gains in three months.
 
Shares of technology bellwether Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) rocketed more than 13%, crossing $1000 per share for the first time after the company announced its quarterly results. Both earnings and revenue surpassed the Street’s estimates. Google’s earnings were boosted by growth in its advertising business. Net income jumped 36% to $2.97 billion in the third-quarter from the year ago figure of $2.18 billion. The company’s consolidated revenue jumped to $14.89 billion from $13.3 billion a year ago.
 
General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) also announced its third quarter earnings. The conglomerate’s earnings came in above the Street’s estimates but revenues fell marginally short of expectations. The company’s profits declined in the third quarter due to a fall in revenue from its water and power business. Shares jumped more than 3% on Friday. On the other hand, shares of Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) climbed nearly 3% after the company declared its quarterly results. The company’s earnings surpassed the Street’s estimates as revenue jumped nearly 30%. Third quarter results were boosted by equity trading and wealth management business.

Speaking about the Federal Reserve’s bond tapering issue, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans said the central bank’s policy makers do not have any positive economic signs that will allow them to taper the massive bond buying program. He said: “My own personal view is, I don't think that we have enough positive additional information going into the next meeting to all of a sudden decide that it's appropriate to taper.”
 
On the international front, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported that the country’s GDP increased to 7.8% in the third quarter from the second quarter figure of 7.5%.  However, a fall in industrial output in September and easing growth in retail sales gives an indication that the world’s second largest economy is slowing down at the end of the third quarter.
 
The technology sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Technology SPDR (XLK) gained 1.7%, fueled by encouraging earnings from internet giant's Google. Stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) added 0.9%, 0.1%, 2.1% and 0.1%, respectively.

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