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Upbeat earnings results coupled with gains in bio-tech and Internet stocks helped benchmarks rebound to the green on Friday. Meanwhile, investors kept an eye on developments related to the MH17 crash and Israel’s invasion of Gaza that had compelled investors to take money out of equities on Thursday. Friday’s broad-based gains helped benchmarks end the volatile week with modest gains.

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 0.7%, or more than 123 points, to close Friday’s trading session at 17,100.18. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) advanced 1.0% to finish at 1,978.22. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 4,432.15; gaining 1.6%. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) plunged 17.1% to settle at 12.06. Total volume on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was about 3.1 billion. Advancers outpaced declining stocks on the NYSE. For 80% stocks that advanced, 18% declined.
 
Investors focused on earnings reports on Friday. Shares of tech giant Google Inc. (GOOGL - Analyst Report) surged 4.2% a day after the company posted second quarter earnings results that exceeded the year-ago level. Google’s second quarter earnings (including traffic acquisition costs, or TAC) reached $5.09 per share. This exceeded the year-ago levels by 20.3%. However, second quarter earnings missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 8 cents.

Another tech-giant International Business Machines Corporation (IBM - Analyst Report) had reported second quarter earnings after markets closed on Thursday. Shares of IBM gained a meager 0.01% a day after the world’s largest technology company posted second quarter earnings of $4.32 per share that jumped 34.2% year on year and beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny.

The Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) advanced 1.2%, the second highest among the S&P 500 sectors. Key stocks from the sector such as Microsoft Corporation (MSFT - Analyst Report), Apple Inc. (AAPL - Analyst Report) and Oracle Corporation (ORCL - Analyst Report) increased 0.4%, 1.4% and 0.2%, respectively.

Shares of Huntington Bancshares Incorporated (HBAN - Analyst Report) went up 4.8% after the company reported impressive quarterly results yet again. Second quarter earnings per share came in at 19 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. The figure also exceeded prior-year quarterly earnings of 17 cents.

Diversified conglomerate General Electric Company (GE - Analyst Report) reported strong second-quarter 2014 results. Operating earnings for the reported quarter improved to 39 cents a share from 36 cents in the year-ago quarter. Operating earnings for the reported quarter were in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Shares of General Electric were up 1.1% in premarket trade. However, at the end of the trading session GE’s shares dropped 0.6%.

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD - Analyst Report) shares plummeted 16.2% after the company reported second quarter earnings of 2 cents per share, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny.

According to Thomson Reuters, S&P 500 companies’ profits will grow at 5.0% for the second quarter, less than the company’s earlier forecast of 8.4% at the beginning of April.

Gains in Internet and bio-tech stocks also ensured a positive finish for benchmarks. Shares of Internet television network provider Netflix, Inc. (NFLX - Analyst Report), online travel company TripAdvisor Inc. (TRIP - Analyst Report), Internet radio service provider Pandora Media, Inc. (P - Snapshot Report), online retailer Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN - Analyst Report) and online trading community eBay Inc. (EBAY) increased 1.1%, 2.9%, 3.4%, 1.8% and 0.9%, respectively.

Other Internet stocks such as Groupon, Inc. (GRPN), LinkedIn Corporation (LNKD), Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), FireEye, Inc. (FEYE) and Facebook, Inc. (FB) gained 1.7%, 1.8%, 0.4%, 1.6% and 3.0%, respectively.

Bio-tech stocks too gained on Friday. Shares of bio-tech companies such as Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD), Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (VRTX) Amgen Inc. (AMGN), Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB), Celgene Corporation (CELG) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (REGN) increased 4.8%, 2.9%, 2.5%, 1.6%, 2.3% and 3.2%, respectively. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV) advanced 1.6%, the biggest among the S&P 500 sectors. Overall, all 10 sectors of the S&P 500 ended in the green.

Meanwhile, investors kept a close watch on geopolitical news. U.S President Barack Obama demanded Russia should stop encouraging pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. President Barack Obama said that the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that crashed near the Ukraine-Russia border on Thursday was hit by a missile  fired from rebel territory. These comments also increase the possibility of fresh sanctions against Russia.

Investor concerns also increased following news that Israel has stepped up military action. On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had instructed the country’s military forces to begin a ground offensive in Gaza.

Markets received mixed economic data on Friday. The University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters’ preliminary reading of consumer sentiment declined in July. The gauge was at 81.3 in July, in contrast to the consensus forecast of an increase to 83.2.

Additionally, the Conference Board’s leading economic index increased 0.3% in June after it rose 0.7% in May. The report hinted that the economy is likely to strengthen in the second half of 2014.

For the week, the S&P 500, the Dow and the Nasdaq gained 0.5%, 0.9% and 0.4%, respectively.

Benchmarks settled in the green for the week, banking on upbeat quarterly results. Citigroup Inc. (C), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS), Intel Corporation (INTC), Morgan Stanley (MS) and UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (UNH) all reported better-than-expected quarterly results. Separately, shares of HCA Holdings, Inc. (HCA) gained after the company raised its earnings guidance for the second quarter and full year.

A flurry of new deals in the technology sector boosted investor sentiment. A deal was struck between International Business Machines Corporation and Apple Inc., in which both the tech-giants agreed to an enterprise mobility partnership. The technology sector witnessed another deal between International Game Technology (IGT) and Italy’s GTECH.

The healthcare sector was also boosted by merger and acquisition activities. AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) proposed an increased $53 billion takeover bid of Shire plc (SHPG). In another development, Mylan, Inc. (MYL) declared that the company will buy Abbott Laboratories’ (ABT) specialty and branded generics pharmaceuticals business outside the U.S. The energy sector too benefitted from merger and acquisition activity between Kodiak Oil & Gas Corp. (KOG) and Whiting Petroleum Corp. (WLL).

However, benchmarks suffered their biggest losses in months on Thursday following reports that a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down near Ukraine-Russian border. Further, benchmarks were negatively impacted on Tuesday after a Fed monetary policy report sparked concerns about “substantially stretched valuations” in Internet and bio-tech stocks. Additionally, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s comment that federal funds rate might be raised sooner if the labor market keeps surprising the central bank dented investor sentiment.

Among major economic data, home construction report was weak. Housing starts fell to a nine-month low in June. However, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book stated that economic activity in all twelve Federal Reserve Districts expanded since the previous report. Additionally, the U.S. Producer Price Index (PPI) for finished goods and industrial production increased in June. Separately, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index touched its highest level in July since January.

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