U.S. stocks jumped on Thursday, with the S&P 500 on track for weekly gains, as companies including Facebook reported better-than-expected quarterly results and data had the economy expanding in the fourth quarter as consumer spending gained traction.
"Today the market is focused on the good news, or the developed world," Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management, said of economic growth in the U.S. and other industrialized nations. And, "when you cut through all the clutter of the earnings news, it's pretty darn good, at least relative to expectations," Stone said.
"At the moment it seems like emerging markets are our new Europe, that's our headline risk," Stone added of the trouble spots that roiled Wall Street on Wednesday, helping push the Dow industrials down 189 points.
Facebook gained after reporting a 63 percent jump in revenue in the fourth quarter, beating expectations; Google rose after Lenovo Group agreed to acquire its Motorola mobile-phone business for $2.91 billion. Exxon Mobil shares fell in early New York trading after the oil company reported a 16 percent decline in quarterly profit. Visa tallied a 9 percent rise in quarterly profit as more consumers used its cards.
Ahead of the open, the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy expanded 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, with consumer spending rising 3.3 percent.
Beyond the GDP data, the Labor Department reported weekly jobless claims rose 19,000 to 348,000 last week versus an 328,000 estimate.
Equities only briefly pared their gains after a report had pending-home sales in December falling 8.7 percent in December.
After a 168-point climb, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 109.82 points, 0.7 percent, at 15,848.61, with Nike pacing gains that extended to 25 of its 30 components.
Health care and consumer discretionary led sector gains on the S&P 500, which climbed 19.99 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,794.19.
The Nasdaq added 71.69 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,123.12.
For every share that fell, more than three gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where 654 million shares traded. Composite volume topped 3.6 billion.
With Friday closing out the month, Wall Street is on track for a poor start to the year, with the S&P 500 down 3.3 percent for January, which some people feel is an indicator of how the rest of the year will play out.
But the notion is not the brightest one, according to Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG, who says the theory is easily refuted by data. "In 12 of the 21 Januarys since 1960 in which stocks traded lower have seen the subsequent 11 months trade higher including four of the last five instances," Greenhaus wrote in emailed research.
"If you do not think 2014 brings a recession, then one should go ahead and feel relatively comfortable purchasing equities. How's that for a January barometer?" he concluded.
PNC's Stone was equally dismissive of the January adage, saying "one 12th of the year is done, I am not sure you can trade on that information."
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks finished steeply lower after the Federal Reserve opted to stick with its plan to continue to reduce its monthly bond purchases, now down to $65 billion, regardless of recent distress in emerging markets.
—By CNBC's Kate Gibson
Coming Up This Week:
Friday: Personal income at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Consumer sentiment at 9:55 a.m. Eastern. Housing vacancies at at 10 a.m. Eastern. Earnings from Chevron, Honda, MasterCard, Autoliv, Brookfield Office Properties, Dominion, Mattel, National Oilwell, Tyson Foods, Weyerhaeuser, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lear Legg Mason, Tyco, Mead Johnson, Aon and Paccar.
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