Better-than-expected earnings from major companies and encouraging comments from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard lifted benchmarks higher on Friday. However, the S&P 500 logged its first weekly loss of the year. Strong economic reports from Europe also lifted investor sentiment and helped the Dow gain over 100 points. All ten S&P 500 industry groups finished in the green and the materials sector emerged as the biggest gainer.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) increased 0.9% to close the day at 14,000.57. The S&P 500 gained 0.9% to finish Friday’s trading session at 1,515.60. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index added 1.0% to end at 3,161.82. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 6.9% to settle at 14.17. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 5.8 billion shares, below the daily average of 6.45 billion shares in 2012. Advancing stocks outnumbered the declining stocks. For the 73% that advanced, 24% declined.
Benchmarks finished the last trading day of the week on an upbeat note. The blue-chip index inched up 0.1%, the S&P 500 fell 0.3% and the Nasdaq lost 0.1% over the week. During the previous week, stocks suffered losses due to the nature of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s meeting. Fed policy makers expressed concerns on $85 billon bond purchases being made every month. Fed policy makers believe buying bonds of such a huge quantum would increase inflation and create disturbance in the financial markets.
Speaking to the CNBC, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the Federal Reserve will keep on buying bonds for a “long time.” Bullard also said: “It's true that the committee is thinking about how are we going to handle this later this year, but that's a natural thing for the committee to be talking about.”
On the earnings front, Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) jumped 12.3% after the company announced its quarterly results. The computer hardware giant’s earnings and revenues came in above the Street’s estimates. The company’s outlook also came in above the Street’s estimates. HP CEO Meg Whitman said: “While there’s still a lot of work to do to generate the kind of growth we want to see, our turnaround is starting to gain traction as a result of the actions we took in 2012 to lay the foundation for HP’s future.”
The technology sector enjoyed decent gains following Hewlett-Packard’s robust results and the Technology SPDR (XLK) gained 1.1%. Stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Digi International Inc. (NASDAQ:DGII) and Silicon Graphics International Corp (NASDAQ:SGI) added 1.1%, 1.0%, 0.9% and 3.2%, respectively.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE:ANF) also reported its quarterly results. Earnings came in above the Street’s estimates but revenue fell marginally short. Shares of the company declined 4.5% after its 2013 earnings forecast came in below the Street’s estimates. According to Thomson Reuters data so far, 70% of S&P 500 company earnings have come in above the Street’s estimates.
On the international front, there was encouraging news from Germany which boosted investor sentiment. German business sentiment increased at its highest pace since July 2010 in February. This indicates that the country is recovering from a dismal fourth-quarter.
Materials was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) gained 1.3%. Stocks such as The Dow Chemical Company NYSE:DOW), Ashland Inc. NYSE:ASH), E I Du Pont De Nemours And Co (NYSE:DD), Kaiser Aluminum Corp. (NASDAQ:KALU) and Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation (NYSE:NOR) gained 1.8%, 2.2%, 1.6%, 1.6% and 4.6%, respectively.