US stocks jump as Microsoft leads a surge in technology

NEW YORK, N.Y. – U.S. stocks are climbing Friday, led by big gains for technology and industrial companies. Fourth-quarter results from Microsoft, Visa and MasterCard lifted tech stocks while Honeywell boosted the industrial sector. Global markets also rallied. Asian indexes climbed after Japan’s central bank announced more aggressive moves to stimulate that country’s economy.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 286 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 16,357 as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 33 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 1,926. The Nasdaq composite picked up 68 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 4,575.

OPENING WINDOWS: Microsoft added $2.86, or 5.6 per cent, to $54.92 after its fourth-quarter profit and revenue beat expectations. The company posted strong results from its cloud computing business and the unit that sells PC software and Surface tablets and Xbox gaming consoles.

COSTS FLOOD AMAZON: The e-commerce company said its profit more than doubled, but it still fell short of Wall Street forecasts because of increased costs. Some of those related to its Fulfillment by Amazon service, which handles shipping for sellers and makes them eligible for Amazon Prime shipping. The stock lost $50.80, or 8 per cent, to $584.55.

XEROX MAKES A COPY: Xerox said it will split into two publicly traded companies after pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn. One of the new companies will focus on document technology, handling document management and outsourcing. The other will be a business process outsourcing company, helping companies with automate and simplify business processes. Xerox gained 50 cents, or 5.4 per cent, to $9.73.

CHARGE IT: Visa and MasterCard both rose after reporting solid results. Visa, a Dow component, climbed $3.69, or 5.3 per cent, to $73.02 and MasterCard picked up $5.38, or 6.4 per cent, to $88.81.

HEAVY INDUSTRY: Honeywell advanced $4.34, or 4.4 per cent, to $102.32 following its fourth-quarter report, and General Electric added 75 cents, or 2.7 per cent, to $28.97.

THE ECONOMY: The Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product slowed down in the fourth quarter and grew only 0.7 per cent. The agency said consumers spent less, businesses invested less, and exports were down because of global instability.

The U.S. economy has been expanding for six and a half years, and experts think growth will pick up in the current quarter. Economists estimate the U.S. economy grew 2.3 per cent in 2015, about the same as 2.4 per cent in 2014.

GOOGLE THIS: Google’s parent, Alphabet, might soon overtake Apple as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. Alphabet stock surged over the last year while Apple has struggled. Both companies are valued at more than $500 billion, and Apple is currently about $10 billion above Alphabet.

IT’S A TRAP: Electronic Arts traded lower. Its profit and revenue forecasts fell a bit short of Wall Street estimates. The video game maker said sales of its “Star Wars: Battlefront” game were strong, but analysts said investors were disappointed with the number of downloads, which are more profitable than sales of physical games.

The stock gave up $.86, or 8.4 per cent, to $63.83. As of Thursday’s close, it was up 26 per cent over the last 12 months.

SEAGATE RISES: Electronic storage maker Seagate Technology stock climbed $2.18, or 8.1 per cent, to $28.93 after its profit and sales surpassed estimates.

INTEREST RATES CUTS: The Bank of Japan said it will charge money to banks that leave large amounts of cash parked at the central bank. The policy is intended to encourage commercial banks to lend more money. That could stimulate investment and growth in Japan’s struggling economy.

Asian markets rallied. Japanese bonds fell the dollar got stronger compared to the yen. Friday afternoon the dollar traded at 121.19 yen, a huge move for the currency, which traded at 118.78 yen late Thursday.

THE QUOTE: Luke Bartholomew, investment manager at Aberdeen Capital Management, said the move by Japan’s central bank is a change of course for the bank and for its governor, Haruhiko Kuroda.

“The surprise is they’re going to negative rates a little more than a week after Kuroda explicitly said they had no intention of doing so,” Bartholomew said. He said the Bank of Japan will need to do more to strengthen Japan’s economy.

OVERSEAS: Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.8 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 2.5 per cent. The Shanghai Composite in mainland China rose 3.1 per cent. European indexes also rose. Germany’s DAX climbed 1.6 per cent. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 2.6 per cent and France’s CAC 40 advanced 2.2 per cent.

WAITING FOR FEBRUARY: January has been a tough month for the market, even after gains posted over the last weeks. The beginning of the year was the worst in the history of the Dow and the S&P 500. Both indexes fell into a correction, or a drop of at least 10 per cent from a recent peak.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index entered a bear market, which means a 20 per cent slide.

The Dow and S&P 500 are both down around 6 per cent this month, while the Nasdaq is down about 8 per cent and the Russell has lost about 10 per cent.

OIL: Crude oil prices kept rising. Benchmark U.S. oil added 40 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $33.62 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, gained 85 cents, or 2.5 per cent, to $34.74. Oil prices have increased for four days in a row as investors hoped for cuts in global oil production.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.93 per cent from 1.98 per cent. European bond yields also sank. The euro weakened to $1.0838 from $1.0955.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline picked up 2.4 cents, or 2.2 per cent, to $1.103 a gallon. Heating oil added 2.4 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $1.055 a gallon. Natural gas rose 11.6 cents, or 5.3 per cent, to $2.298 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Metals prices didn’t change much. Gold rose 80 cents to $1,116.40 an ounce and silver gained 1.1 cents to $14.243 an ounce. Copper added 1.6 cents to $2.067 a pound.


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