U.S. Stocks End Month Higher, Buoyed by Earnings

By Corrie Driebusch and Mike Bird Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks ended the month higher, boosted by strong corporate earnings.

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The S&P 500 now sits about half a percentage point from all-time highs.

With nearly 60% of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported, first-quarter earnings are on track to rise 12.5% from the year prior, according to FactSet. That's above the first-quarter earnings growth of 9.1% that analysts estimated as of March 31.

On Friday, shares of Chevron and Exxon Mobil climbed after the companies posted encouraging results. Exxon's shares rose 39 cents, or 0.5%, to $81.65 after the oil and gas giant said its profit more than doubled in the first quarter, while Chevron's stock gained 1.23, or 1.2%, to 106.70 after the company swung to a profit in the first three months of the year.

Amazon.com's stock rose 6.61, or 0.7%, to 924.99, a new record, after the company posted a bigger-than-expected increase in profit late Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Biogen shares gained 3.6% Tuesday after the biotech company's earnings topped analyst estimates and McDonald's stock climbed 5.6% after the burger giant reported better-than-expected sales in the first quarter.

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The S&P 500 ended the week up 1.5%, putting its April gains at 0.9%. The index slipped 4.57 points, or 0.2%, to 2384.20 Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 40.82 points, or 0.2%, to 20940.51 Friday.

Friday's declines followed data showing the U.S. economy stumbled in the first quarter.

Gross domestic product rose 0.7% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, the Commerce Department said, falling short of the 1% growth expected by economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. However, it exceeded the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's widely tracked GDPNow model, which on Thursday forecast 0.2% growth for the first quarter.

There were other positive signals in the data. U.S. wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace since 2007 during the first quarter, signaling a tightening labor market. The Fed's preferred inflation gauge also rose at a rate of 2.4% in the first quarter, its biggest jump since spring 2011.

Still, some analysts said they were concerned with the GDP number and what it could mean.

"We need greater growth," said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management. If inflation and slow growth continue together, it would "be something to worry about because it could hurt corporate profits."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.282%, compared with 2.298% Thursday. In April, yields declined 0.114 percentage point.

Earlier, the euro and government bond yields jumped on surprisingly strong eurozone inflation figures. The Stoxx Europe 600 index slipped 0.2%.

Despite the cooling in European stocks toward the end of the week, the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1.6% in April, its third consecutive month of gains. In the week ended April 26, European equity funds recorded their strongest inflows in more than a year, according to EPFR Global data.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.3% on Friday, though it ended the month up 1.5%.

Write to Corrie Driebusch at corrie.driebusch@wsj.com and Mike Bird at Mike.Bird@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 28, 2017 17:01 ET (21:01 GMT)