Wall Street rallies on Facebook and GDP; Amazon sinks late

January 31, 2014

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The S&P 500 scored its biggest gain in more than a month on Thursday as Facebook led a tech rally and data showed the U.S. economy was on solid footing in the fourth quarter.

The day’s rebound pushed the S&P 500 back into positive territory for the week, but the index was still down 2.9 percent for the month.

Facebook Inc shares jumped 14.1 percent to end at $61.08, hitting a lifetime high of $62.50 during the session and supporting both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. The social media company delivered its strongest revenue growth in two years on Wednesday, beating analysts’ estimates.

Google Inc shares jumped 2.6 percent to $1,135.39, a day after Lenovo Group <0992.HK> said it would buy the Internet search giant’s Motorola handset division for $2.91 billion.

After the closing bell, Google’s shares extended gains by 4.6 percent when the company reported quarterly revenue that beat analysts’ expectations.

The S&P 500 tech sector index <.SPLRCT> finished the regular session up 1.5 percent, ranking among the day’s best-performing sectors. All 10 S&P sector indexes ended the day higher.

On Wednesday, each of the three major U.S. stock indexes dropped 1 percent after the Federal Reserve announced it would reduce its monthly bond purchases by another $10 billion.

Turmoil in emerging markets eased on Thursday as the hard-hit Turkish lira and South African rand rebounded.

“I think the rhetoric about emerging market currencies had settled down some … I’m not surprised to see the market really bounce back, especially in sectors that had been pretty hard hit,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

Adding to support, data showed U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, in line with expectations. Strong household spending and robust exports supported the growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 109.82 points or 0.70 percent, to end at 15,848.61. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 19.99 points or 1.13 percent, to finish at 1,794.19, its biggest daily percentage gain since December 18.

The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 71.69 points or 1.77 percent, to close at 4,123.13, its best daily percentage rise since October 10.

Shares of Amazon.com Inc slid after the bell, tumbling 7.5 percent to $373 after the world’s largest Internet retailer reported sales for the holiday quarter with less growth than some had hoped for outside North America. During the regular session, Amazon’s stock had jumped 4.9 percent to close at $403.01.

After-hours gainers included Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc , whose shares jumped 9.5 percent to $541 following the release of the burrito chain’s results. Shares of video game maker Zynga Inc surged 19.9 percent to $4.27 after the company said it would slash its workforce by 15 percent.

During the regular session, shares of Qualcomm rose 3 percent to $73.26, a day after the leading mobile chipmaker reported results. Qualcomm bumped up its full-year earnings outlook.

Among other gainers, Visa Inc shares climbed 1.7 percent to $220.88 after the world’s largest credit and debit card company reported a 9 percent increase in quarterly profit as more people used its cards.

The day’s economic data also showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but the underlying trend suggested the labor market continued to heal.

Some analysts were recommending large-cap stocks in 2014 over small caps due to the sector’s high valuation and the impact of increased market volatility as the Fed continues to taper its stimulus efforts.

“Attractive relative valuations, improving global economic growth and higher long-term interest rates are all likely to benefit large caps more than their smaller counterparts,” said Mary Ann Bartels, chief investment officer for portfolio solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, in a note to clients.

Volume was just below average for the month. About 6.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the average of 6.9 billion so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

Advancers outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq by slightly more than 3 to 1.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)

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