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U.S. Stocks Rally on Earnings, German Data, After Two-Day Selloff

02/22/2013 | 04:36pm US/Eastern
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--U.S. stocks gain after two-day drop

--German business confidence tops expectations

--H-P, AIG rally after reporting quarterly results

 
   By Matt Jarzemsky 
 

The Dow industrials posted their third triple-digit-point gain of the year, as Hewlett-Packard and American International Group AIG rallied on earnings and a reading on German business confidence topped expectations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 119.95 points, or 0.9%, to 14000.57, reversing most of a 155-point slide from the prior two days.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index tacked on 13.18 points, or 0.9%, to 1515.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 30.33 points, or 1%, to 3161.82.

"Any selloff we get is going to be shallow," said Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, which manages $1.2 trillion in St. Louis. "The mentality is, 'I want to wait for the market to pull back so I can buy stocks at lower levels.' The Fed's on our side, companies are making money and the growth environment is OK."

Hewlett-Packard gained 12%, leading the Dow higher, after the technology company late Thursday reported a quarterly profit that topped analysts' expectations and gave a better-than-expected earnings forecast.

AIG rose 3.1% after saying late Thursday that it swung to a loss, but operating profit in some segments exceeded analyst expectations.

For the week, the Dow finished with a 0.1% gain, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.3% to snap a seven-week streak of weekly gains.

Weighing on the benchmarks this week, minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting released Wednesday showed some officials feared the consequences of low-interest-rate policies and asset-purchase programs meant to aid the economy. That sparked U.S. stocks' biggest two-day selloff of the year, as such policies have been a boon to stocks. But strategists said the pullback also set the stage for Friday's rebound.

"In my mind, the market overreacted to what the Fed minutes said," Mr. Wren said. "[Fed officials] are going to leave rates low and they're going to be buying low-risk securities for quite a while."

European markets rose, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 1.3% to recover most of the losses from the previous session, after data showed German business confidence increased much more than expected in February. The index advanced 0.4% on the week.

Germany's DAX index climbed 1% and gained 0.9% for the week. The measure is up 0.7% this year.

"From the U.S. perspective, Germany is a very industrial and export-oriented economy; If they're seeing optimism on their order books, then there's reason to be optimistic globally," said Wasif Latif, vice president of equity investments at USAA Investments in San Antonio. His firm manages $54 billion.

Elsewhere, Italy's FTSE MIB index advanced 1.4%. The index had fallen this week to close Thursday at a two-month low ahead of general elections in Italy this weekend. Some investors fear a new government may not continue the country's reformist path.

In Asia, China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.5% to a one-month low and declined 4.9% on the week. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index also shed 0.5%, dropping 2.8% for the week, to near a two-month low. Investors are concerned that policy makers will implement additional tightening measures to control residential property prices.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average gained 0.7% and climbed 1.9% on the week. The index has risen 14 of the past 15 weeks and has climbed 9.5% this year. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.8%, rebounding from losses on Thursday, but fell 0.3% on the week, snapping a five-week winning streak.

Crude-oil prices rose 0.3% to settle at $93.13 a barrel, while gold retreated 0.4% to $1,572.40 a troy ounce, its lowest settlement price this year. The dollar rose against the yen and euro. The 10-year Treasury note edged up in price, pushing its yield down to 1.965%.

In other corporate news, Cabot Oil & Gas jumped 11% after the natural-gas producer's earnings climbed 55% on higher production.

Texas Instruments advanced 5.2% after the chip maker unveiled a 33% increase in its quarterly dividend late Thursday and increased its stock-repurchase authorization by $5 billion.

Abercrombie & Fitch slipped 4.5% after giving an earnings forecast that lagged analysts' projections and saying it expects to close 40 to 50 stores in the U.S. in 2013.

Vivus dropped 2.3% after the pharmaceutical company said Thursday that a European Medicines Agency committee backed an earlier decision, in which the panel recommended against approval of its weight-loss drug.

WebMD Health surged 25% after the health-information provider's adjusted fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analyst estimates late Thursday and its 2013 earnings outlook topped forecasts.

-Write to Matt Jarzemsky at matthew.jarzemsky@dowjones.com

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