Earnings Fuel Stock Market Gains – Dow Jones Soared More than 100 Points Midday

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Yes, Friday was all about the earnings.

The stock market rallied Friday thanks to a roaring round of positive earnings reports – with a little help from positive news out of Europe.

Just after noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 113 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 jumped 9 points and the Nasdaq gained 22.

With little on the economic calendar to close out the week, and no major reports due, market participants focused on encouraging first-quarter results from a spate of several large and market-influencing firms.

"There's been a wrestling match all week long between strong earnings and weak economic data. At the moment earnings are winning," Lawrence Centura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors told the Associated Press.

Strong Earnings Push Stock Market Gains

To date, quarterly earning has been pleasantly strong.

"The number of companies reporting positive surprises is much higher than it typically is at this stage in the game," Fred Dickson, chief market strategist of D.A. Davidson & Co. told CNN Money. "They're only beating by a little, but it's still a significant number of companies and that's the wow factor."

Of the 212 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported, better than 80% have exceeded expectations, according to Thomson Reuters. During a typical quarter, the percentage of companies that top forecasts is 60%.

Here are some recent highlights:

  • Tech giant Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) lead Friday's gains in the broad-based rally after beating expectations late Thursday, reporting sales growth of 6% thanks to its Window and Office products. MSFT gained 4.55% Friday to close at $32.42.
  • Investors also ate up better-than-expected numbers from fast-food king McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD), which ended the day up. The company proved it remained a worldwide favorite with same-store sales up 8.9% in the U.S., 5% in Europe and 5.5% in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Revenue rose 8% (excluding currency fluctuations).
  • Robust earnings from General Electric (NYSE: GE) pushed its stock up 1.15% to $19.36. GE narrowly beat expectations with quarterly profit of 34 cents a share, a penny higher than expected, and revenue of $35.18 billion compared to a forecast $34.7 billion.
  • Meanwhile, traders traded E*Trade (Nasdaq: ETFC) up some 6% on better-than-expected first-quarter results. E*Trade's first-quarter profit rose 38% from a year earlier.
  • Technology manufacturer Honeywell (NYSE: HON) beat on both earnings and revenue, sending the honey pot buzzing. First-quarter income climbed 17% from a year earlier, and the company raised its 2012 forecast.

Also goosing stocks Friday was hopes that global finance ministers will announce new resources for the International Monetary Fund during the IMF and World Bank's spring meeting in Washington. CNN Money reports analysts with the Eurasia Group expect the IMF to announce $400 billion in additional funding at the meeting's end this weekend.

The Dow Friday closed up 65 points to 13,029.49.

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