Apple, Amazon drive US stocks higher

Reported by AAP
Saturday, April 28, 2012
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Tech giants Apple and Amazon have proved their mettle to doubting investors once again, leading US stocks higher in the week as the markets showed they had not yet run out of steam.

The world's biggest company, market value-wise, and the internet's biggest retailer, both showed up analysts with forecast-busting results that gave the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 firm boosts.

They also helped distract from other possible sources of investor worry - a somewhat glum US growth report for the first quarter, Federal Reserve inaction on hopes for more stimulus, new worries in Europe and some concern about Chinese growth.

Friday brought a lower-than-forecast estimate for first-quarter US growth, of only 2.2 per cent, down from 3.0 per cent in the final quarter of 2011.

But even that failed to dull the markets, which turned in gains for the day.

US markets scored a firm performance for the week, with earnings from a number of firms beating forecasts and cheering the investors.

For the week the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.53 per cent to end at 13,228.31, and the S&P gained 1.8 per cent to 1,403.36.

The Nasdaq though picked up 2.29 per cent, helped mainly by Apple's 5.2 per cent gain for the week, and Amazon's 19.4 per cent run.

Also helping the markets were blue-chip Boeing's earnings, which delivered a 5.1 per cent boost to the aircraft maker's shares for the period.

"The reporting period has been much better than expected, although admittedly from a lower bar -- 83 per cent of companies have beaten expectations so far, which is an all-time record high," said analysts at Charles Schwab & Co.

"But market reactions to good reports have been more muted relative to the punishments doled out to those that disappointed."

Among the disappointments were Caterpillar, which lost 2.9 per cent for the week; Procter & Gamble, down 4.6 per cent; and United Continental, down 3.2 per cent.

Even so, said Bryan Sapp of Schaeffer's Investment Research, the markets did not appear to want to fall.

"The one certainty remains that this market is made of Teflon. Seemingly no matter what happens, the bears just can't manage to take the reins and drive us lower, despite abysmal economic data and numerous macroeconomic fears," he said.

The Charles Schwab analysts said they remained optimistic, but wary nonethless.

"Despite an earnings season that has been much better than expected so far, investors appear to be again focusing on more macro concerns," they said.

"Europe and China are dominant concerns but US growth sustainability is also being questioned."

Company results in the coming week include Pfizer and Motorola (Tuesday), Comcast and Time-Warner (Wednesday), and Viacom, Kraft, AIG and General Motors (Thursday).

Even if company earnings are driving sentiment, eyes will still be on data releases covering April in the coming week: consumer spending (Monday), the ISM manufacturing index (Tuesday), industrial orders (Wednesday); and the ISM services survey (Thursday).

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