Midday Market Update: U.S. Shares Gain on Fresh Round of Earnings

By Jennifer Yousfi
Managing Editor

Stocks surged today (Wednesday), on a round of earnings releases that met or exceeded Wall Street expectations.

"On Friday, we had the bad surprise from [General Electric Co. (GE)]," Ken Tower, chief market strategist at Covered Bridge Tactical, told MarketWatch. "But this week, we're seeing investors pleasantly surprised that earnings overall are not as bad, supporting the view of a shallow economic decline instead of a more severe one."

At midday in New York, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index was up 179.37 points (1.45%), to trade at 12,541.84. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index gained 48.43 points (2.12%), to reach 2,334.47. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index increased 18.68 points (1.40%), to hit 1,353.11.

All sectors were up, with the basic materials sector (up 3.02%) and the technology sector (up 2.55%) posting the largest gains.

Intel Corp. (INTC) shares got a boost from strong first quarter sales results in Asia and Europe. Sales increased 9.3% to $9.67 billion, beating analyst estimates.

"These big market-share multinationals are still benefiting from economic growth outside the U.S.," Keith Wirtz, Cincinnati-based chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management, told Bloomberg News. "It tells me conditions are not all that bad on a global basis."

March industrial production also rose slightly for the month with a 0.3% increase.

"The manufacturing sector may not be expanding but it is not contracting either, which is good news," Joel Naroff, president and chief economist of Naroff Economic Advisors, said in a note to clients today.

In overseas markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index gained 1.2% with an increase of 155.55 points to close at 13,146.13. Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index was relatively flat with a 22.98-point drop, to close at 23,878.35.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares gained 1.6%. Other major European bourses were up, with the Paris-based CAC40, London's FTSE 100, Madrid's IBEX 35 and the Frankfurt-based DAX all posting gains.

At midday, the dollar had lost ground against the euro (down 1.072%), the yen (down 0.010%) and the pound sterling (down 0.785%).

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