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Stocks clawing back

Stocks clawing back
Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 12:13pm

U.S. stocks inched into positive territory Thursday afternoon as investors digested mixed earnings results and a pair of tepid economic reports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 ticked higher but had trouble staying out of the red.

The Nasdaq continued to gain, rising 0.6%. The tech-heavy index was lifted by Facebook's strong earnings report, released after Wednesday's close.

But investors largely lacked conviction to push stocks decidedly in any one direction. It's summer, volumes tend to be light and all three indexes have gained more than 18% so far this year.

More than a third of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported second-quarter results so far, according to S&P Capital IQ. As of Thursday morning, 66% had topped analysts' lowered expectations.

The Facebook effect: Shares of Facebook surged more than 25% Thursday, a day after the social networking site posted strong quarterly results, led by a marked improvement in its mobile business.

"Facebook is the one driving the Nasdaq and 25% is a powerful, powerful move" said Joseph Saluzzi, a partner at Themis Trading.

The momentum propelled Zynga's stock, as well. The app developer has games on Facebook.

Mixed bag of earnings: Dow Chemical and Tripadvisor reported quarterly profit gains.

General Motors reported an improvement in second-quarter earnings but a slowdown in China pressured overall profits.

PulteGroup reported earnings and revenue that fell way short of forecasts. Despite the weak results, the homebuilder said the housing market was on track to recovery.

Baidu shares surged 14% after the Chinese Internet company reported a second quarter profit that topped analyst expectations.

Amazon and Starbucks are due to report after the close.

Tepid recovery: In economic news, the government released jobless claims data Thursday morning in line with expectations. Initial claims rose to 343,000 for the week ended July 20, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week.

New orders of durable goods, also reported by the Census Bureau, surged past expectations. The number jumped by 4.2% in June to $244.5 billion and has risen for four of the past five months.

But without the nearly 13% gain in orders of transportation equipment, the numbers were not so hot. "It still gives the story of a very tepid recovery," Saluzzi said.

World markets in the red: European markets ended lower. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index lost almost 0.5% and Germany's DAX fell by 0.96%.

Asian markets ended with losses, even as the Chinese government announced a mini-stimulus plan that should give a boost to certain areas of the economy, including small businesses.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 0.3% and the Shanghai Composite index declined by 0.6%.

In Japan, Tokyo's Nikkei fell by 1.1%.

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