Business, Economics and Jobs

US stocks close higher on surprising Microsoft, Amazon earnings


Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 16, 2013.


Spencer Platt

US stocks ended the week on a positive note on Friday after a bunch of better-than-expected earnings results distracted investors from some very ho-hum economic data.

The S&P 500 rose 0.44 percent to 1,759.77, marking a fresh record-high closing level for the benchmark index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.39 percent at 15,570.28, not far off its all time high, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq finished at 3,943.36 for a gain of 0.37 percent.

Microsoft and Amazon helped to drive the markets higher after trouncing analyst forecasts for their quarterly earnings.

An ambitious reorganization launched by out-going Chief Executive Steve Ballmer appears to be bearing fruit for Microsoft, which reported net profit of $5.2 billion, or 62 cents per share, on revenue of $18.5 billion. 

Both were higher than the previous corresponding period, and exceeded expectations by a sizeable margin. Microsoft shares rose 5.96 percent to close at $35.73.

Shares in Amazon soared 10 percent at the opening bell after the online retail giant posted better-than-expected sales growth in North America while also giving the thumbs up for the all-important holiday season. 

Sales soared 24 percent from a year earlier to $17.1 billion. The company also posted a net loss of $41 million, but this was a significant improvement on the year-ago loss of $274 million. Amazon's shares closed up 9.39 percent at $363.39.

Economic data released Friday indicated the US economy is feeling some pain as a result of the political brinkmanship over the federal budget and debt ceiling.

Consumer sentiment fell to 73.2 in October from 77.5 in September, marking the lowest level since December 2012, amid concerns Congressional fighting and the 16-day government shutdown will hurt economic growth, a survey by Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan shows. 

Orders for durable goods such as toasters, washing machines and tanks that are meant to last at least three years rose 3.7 percent in September. Stripping out transportation, orders slipped 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said.