"It's an odd day in the markets," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. The news out Friday was mostly disappointing, he said. Big corporations' earnings reports weren't all that good.
Expedia was an exception. The online travel company turned in sales that topped Wall Street's estimates, driving its stock up $7.46, or 8 per cent, to $101.69.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 22.78 points, or 1.1 per cent, to finish at 2,108.29. That's after dropping 1 per cent the day before.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 183.54 points, or 1 per cent, to 18,024.06, while the Nasdaq composite rose 63.97 points, 1.3 per cent, to 5,005.39.
Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group, cautioned against reading too much into a day with light trading. "The rally is fun," he said, "but it doesn't mean much."
The Nasdaq lost 1.7 per cent for the week as investors sold many of the technology companies that have fared well this year. Strong gains for Apple and other tech stocks helped the Nasdaq finally topple a record high last Thursday. So, what changed?
Smith said Apple's earnings had something to do with it. Apple is big enough that its moves can swing the Nasdaq higher or lower. Last week, investors bought Apple's stock in anticipation of another blowout earnings report when the tech giant reported results Monday. In the three days afterward, Apple's stock lost 6 per cent.
LinkedIn plunged after the online networking service warned of weaker earnings in the months ahead, a result of the stronger dollar and the company's pending purchase of Lynda.com, an online learning company. Twitter continued a slump started earlier in the week when the company turned in disappointing sales and cut its revenue outlook. Twitter dropped $1.12, or 3 per cent, to $37.84, while LinkedIn lost $46.92, or 19 per cent, to $205.21.
Roughly a third of all the companies in the S&P 500 reported first-quarter results this week, and the news was mixed. Falling oil prices and a rising dollar hammered many of them. Analysts expect companies in the S&P 500 will say overall earnings inched up 0.6 per cent compared with the same period of last year, according to S&P Capital IQ, a provider of financial information. But revenue is expected to drop 1.4 per cent.
Ablin said that investors are wrestling with a slew of diverging trends. Recent reports have raised concerns about the economy's strength. On Wednesday, the government said that it nearly stopped growing in the first three months of the year. To some investors that's not such bad news: Weak economic growth could lead the Federal Reserve to postpone its plans to raise a key borrowing rate. Record low interest rates have helped the stock market soar since the financial crisis.
"Economic data has recently been disappointing," Ablin said, "but that keeps the Fed offstage."
In Europe, the only major market open for trading was in Britain, where the FTSE 100 finished with a gain of 0.4 per cent.
Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 per cent, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 per cent. New Zealand's benchmark rose 0.1 per cent. Most markets in Asia and Europe were closed for the International Workers Day holiday.
Back in the U.S., government bond prices sank, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 2.12 per cent from 2.03 per cent the day before.
In commodities trading, gold dropped $7.90 to end at $1,174.50 an ounce, while silver lost 2 cents to $16.14 an ounce. Copper added 4 cents to $2.93 a pound.
Oil fell nearly 1 per cent Friday, the first trading day in May, following a gain of more than 20 per cent the month before. U.S. oil slid 48 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $59.15 a barrel. Brent crude slipped 32 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to $66.46 a barrel.
In other trading:
—Wholesale gasoline was barely changed at $2.045 a gallon.
—Heating oil crept up 0.2 cent to $1.982.
—Natural gas rose 2.5 cents to $2.776 per 1,000 cubic feet.