FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

Lifted by solid first-quarter earnings from a slew of companies, the blue chips closed out the month at the highest level since 2008. 

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 47.2 points, or 0.37%, to 12,811, the S&P 500 gained 3.1 points , or 0.23%, to 1,364 and the Nasdaq Composite tacked on 1 point, or 0.04%, to 2,874. The FOX 50 was up 0.4 point to 956.  

The markets performed solidly this month. The Dow was up 4% and the Nasdaq jumped 3.3% -- the best monthly performance this year.  Indeed, the Nasdaq is now at its highest level in nearly a decade. 

Companies that make capital goods gained the most on Friday, driven by Caterpillar's (CAT) record-breaking earnings.  Technology stocks stumbled, with players like Microsoft (MSFT) and Research and Motion (RIMM) spooking the markets. 

Microsoft posted earnings of $5.7 billion, or 61 cents a share, easily topping estimates of 56 cents after the markets closed Thursday. However, shares were lower amid concerns over the future of PC demand as competitors like Apple (AAPL) have garnered substantial marketshare gains. 

Caterpillar unveiled profits of $1.84 a a share on $12.95 billion in sales -- far greater than the $1.31 on $11.69 billion analysts predicted. The Heavy-machinery giant's shares hit a record high on the results. 

Oil refiner Chevron (CVX) saw its first-quarter earnings soar 36% to $6.21 billion, or $3.09 a share, well above calls for $3.00. 

Merk (MRK), the global health company, said it earned 92 cents a share, excluding one-time costs, zipping past estimates of 84 cents. 

Not all corporate news has been positive, however.  Research in Motion  slashed its fiscal first-quarter outlook to $1.30-$1.37 a share, down from $1.47 to $1.55 it projected last month on slower-than-expected smartphone shipments.  Shares of the BlackBerry maker plummeted more than 10%. 

Personal income climbed 0.5% in March, a bigger gain than the 0.4% economists estimated.  Consumer spending was also up for the month, edging higher by 0.6% against analysts' view of 0.5%. 

The final reading from Reuters/University of Michigan on consumer sentiment was 69.8 in April a tick above the preliminary calculation of 69.6 after plummeting in March.  Economists forecast the gauge to have hit 69.9 for the month. 

"Consumer sentiment is at a depressed level and the American consumer is fatigued from the impact of the Great Recession," wrote Chris Christopher, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight.  "Increasing gasoline and food prices are the last thing they needed."

The consumer sector is an important part of broad domestic growth, so it's possible these data will have an impact on the markets. In particular, consumer-driven issues like Mattel (MAT) and Nike (NKE) could be swayed. 

In the foreign exchange markets, the U.S. dollar tumbled 4.3% against the euro, closing the month close to a 52-week low.  The dollar index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of world currencies, ended the month down 4%. 

The energy markets were particularly choppy in April. Oil prices soared 6.8% on the month to the highest level in 31 months. 

Light, sweet crude gained $1.07, or 0.95%, to $113.93 on the day.  

Wholesale RBOB gasoline was up 4 cents, or 1%, to $3.46 a gallon -- the highest settlement since July 2008.  Gas prices at the consumer level have climbed to $3.91 on average nationwide, up from $3.60 last month and $2.88 last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.  The highest level on record, according the report, was $4.11 in July 2008. 

Gold jumped $117 a troy ounce, or 8%, in April.  The metal traded higher by $25.20, or 1.7%, to a record high of $1,556 Friday. 

Corporate News

Sprint's (S) price target was boosted to $6 from $5 by analysts at RBC, sending shares rising considerably. 

Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT) revealed first-quarter profits of 51 cents a share excluding charges, much higher than the 12 cents analysts forecast.

Foreign Markets

The London Stock Exchange was closed due to the royal wedding.  The French CAC 40 was up 0.05% to 6,070 and the German DAX gained 0.52% to 7,514. 

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 1.6% to 9,850 and the Chinese Hang Seng was down 0.36% to 23,721. 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.