Strong earnings by tech heavyweights Microsoft and Amazon helped benchmarks finish in the green while the S&P 500 touched a new high on Friday. Also helping the rally was a better-than-expected increase in durable orders in September. However, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final consumer sentiment index dropped to its lowest in 10 months. The bullish mood in the market helped all S&P 500 sectors finish in the green with the energy sector taking the lead.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.4% to close the day at 15,570.28. The S&P 500 added 0.4% to finish Friday’s trading session at 1,759.77. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.4% to end at 3,943.36. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 0.8% to settle at 13.09. Total volume on the NYSE was 3.1 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 56% shares that advanced, 41% declined.
Last week, the Dow gained 1.1%, the S&P 500 added 0.9% and the Nasdaq climbed 0.7%. Better-than-expected earnings from a series of major companies and encouraging manufacturing data out of China guided the major indices higher in the previous week. Investor sentiment was also boosted by tepid government jobs data which eased investor concerns about the prospects of the Fed reducing bond buying in its next meeting.
The benchmarks’ strong finish on Friday can be largely attributed to strong earnings reports from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). Both the tech bellwethers shared positive earnings results; thereby boosting the overall sentiment. Microsoft’s earnings and revenue numbers exceeded the Street’s estimates. The company’s earnings jumped 17% in the fiscal first quarter, boosted by robust business sales of its Office and server software. Revenue jumped 16% to $18.53 billion from $16.01 billion a year earlier period. Following these strong quarterly numbers, shares jumped nearly 6% yesterday.
Shares of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) gained in excess of 8% after the company reported revenue well above the Street’s expectations. Revenue jumped nearly 24% to $17.1 billion in the third quarter. Sales showed impressive growth across all categories. For the fourth quarter, the company has projected that revenue will be in the range of $23.5 billion to $26.5 billion.
Separately, United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) also released strong third quarter earnings results and its shares gained 1.2%. UPS’ profits doubled year on year, helped by an increase in deliveries. A surge in online sales improved the package delivery company’s U.S. business. Increased international exports and U.S. ground shipments helped it deliver 1 billion packages in the third quarter.
Also helping the mood was a better-than-expected September durable goods report from the U.S. Department of Commerce. After a 0.2% increase in August, new orders for manufactured durable goods improved 3.7% to $233.4 billion in September. This was higher than the consensus estimate of 2.4%. Excluding transportation, new orders dropped 0.1%, while increased 3.2% when excluding defense orders.
In contrast, consumer confidence dropped to 73.2 in October from September’s figure of 75.2 according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan. This was below the consensus estimate of 74.7 and was the weakest for the year.
The energy sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups on Friday. The Energy SPDR (XLE) gained 0.6%. Stocks such as Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:APC), Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Schlumberger Limited (NYSE:SLB), Hess Corp. (NYSE:HES) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) added 2.0%, 0.02%, 0.1%, 0.1% and 0.9% respectively.