Stocks power to multiyear highs for April
Stocks rise to highest levels since 2008. Dow gains 490 points for the month of April. S&P is up nearly 38 points.
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Caterpillar gained after soundly beating first-quarter earnings estimates, and giving a better forecast for the full year. The heavy-equipment maker's net income was $1.84 a share on sales of $12.95 billion, beating estimates for $1.31 a share on sales of $11.69 billion.Skip to next paragraph
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Merck rose slightly after also delivering better-than-expected first-quarter results. The pharmaceutical company maintained its long-range forecast.
The tech sector was under pressure Friday after disappointing news Thursday evening from
Microsoft, beat estimates for both profits and sales, but a drop in sales for Windows hinted that a downturn in personal computer sales may be underway, sending shares of the tech giant spiraling lower in the biggest one-day drop for the stock since July 2009.
D.R. Horton ,meanwhile, gained after reporting a surprising doubling of profits, helped by a tax benefit. The homebuilder's revenues slumped, however.
ITT fell after the global engineering and manufacturing firm said its defense sales would be hurt this year by U.S. budget issues.
Another varied mix of earnings will be released next week, including results fromGeneral Motors, AIG, Kraft and Comcast, CNBC's parent company. AlsoChrysler will release earnings on Monday even though the company is privately held.
In M&A news, Ralcorp soared after newsConagra made an unsolicited bid for the maker of Post cereals and other private-brand foods about two months ago, according to a CNBC report. Ralcorp's stock has appreciated significantly since then. Circuit breakers were triggered after the news, but shares have resumed trading.
And SunPower skyrocketed more than 30 percent after Total SA, an integrated oil and gas company, said it plans to buy a 60 percent stake in the U.S. maker of solar panels for about $2.3 billion.
Apple gained slightly, although in lost momentum late in the session, after slumping Thursday a day before the Nasdaq 100 is rebalanced, reducing Apple's weighting from about 20 percent of the index to about 12 percent.
Volume on the consolidated tape of the New York Stock Exchange was about 3.6 billion shares, while about 975 million changed hands on the NYSE floor.
Silver and gold rose slightly as the dollar sank to a three-year low against a basket of currencies. Silver futures for May delivery surged 28.3 percent in April to close at $48.58, the largest monthly gain in Comex history, while gold futures for May delivery rose 8.14 percent in April to close at a record $1,556. (Read more: Silver Reaches for Record)
The market shrugged off news of slowing first quarter growth to climb to new highs on Thursday because the news was expected, given unusually bad winter weather, unrest in the Middle East and the multiple catastrophes in Japan, said Phil Orlando, chief market strategist at Federated Investors.
But none of these events is considered long-lasting, and Federated, along with other market observers, expect the U.S. economy will continue to grow.
"Much like a year ago, I think this is going to prove to be a temporary soft patch, not an inflection point leading to a double-dip recession," Orlando said.
Meanwhile, corporate earnings are good, and stock valuations remain reasonable, so the market is likely to continue rising, he said. Federated expected the S&P to hit 1,350 by the middle of this year, which it did this past week. Now the investment firm sees the broad-market index gaining another 5 to 10 percent at most before the end of the year.
"Stock price performance and valuation will be much more of a grind over the next year or two from here versus the surge over the last two years," Orlando said.
The Chicago purchasing managers index for April came in at 67.6, slightly less than expected, and down from 70.6 in March.
Trading was thin in Europe with the London Stock Exchange closed on Friday as the UK had a public holiday to celebrate the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. European stocks closed higher, posting the best monthly performance since December.