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Tech trio could help market Friday

A trio of tech titans could help juice the market Friday, after positive earnings news from all three drove their stocks sharply higher.

Alphabet, parent of Google, reported better-than-expected profits for the third quarter and announced a buyback. Its stock surged more than 9 percent in after-hours trading. Amazon.com reported a surprise profit on stronger sales, and its stock jumped 11 percent. Microsoft also rallied more than 7 percent after reporting a surprise bump in profits and revenues.

Stocks rallied Thursday, closing with sharp gains on positive earnings news and the expectation that more easing will come from the European Central Bank. McDonald's, Caterpillar and 3M were all higher after earnings. The Dow closed up 320 points at 17,489, and the S&P 500 jumped 33 to 2,052.


Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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Earnings reports Friday include Procter and Gamble, American Airlines, State Street, Thomson Reuters, Royal Caribbean, Tenneco, DTE Energy, Cabot Oil and Gas and VF Corp. Markit flash PMI at 9:45 a.m. ET is the only U.S. data Friday morning.

The three tech earnings beats are a positive in an earnings season that has been fairly lackluster. Even though about 70 percent of S&P 500 companies reporting so far have beaten expectations, nearly 60 percent missed revenue forecasts. Earnings are expected to decline 3.3 percent based on estimates and actual reports from S&P companies, according to Thomson Reuters.

"What's important is we've worked this way through an earnings season, which has had a fair number of household names blow up and they remain compartmentalized and have not taken whole sectors down with them," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He pointed to Chipotle and IBM.

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Traders are also watching currency markets. The euro Thursday slumped about 2 percent, after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's dovish comments signaled that the ECB could extend its quantitative easing program at its December meeting and possibly even cut interest rates if things get bad enough.

The dollar index popped, rising more than 1.2 percent as the euro fell just under a key technical level of $1.118. The dollar also rose against the yen. The stronger dollar has put a dent in multinational earnings.

"What's interesting is you have the dollar up and some commodities up," said Hogan, adding materials stocks also rose. Usually the stronger dollar takes a toll on commodities.

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The stock market has been rallying amid the belief that the Fed will not raise interest rates this year, and a rising dollar could help reinforce that view since it could be seen as a negative for the economy. "If the Fed was looking to push off their decision in December, the dollar could give them that excuse," said Hogan, adding he didn't see that as a likely scenario.

"I don't think (the ECB) necessarily has profound implications for Fed policy. The more the Fed stands steady against the negative rates in the other part of the world, the more it looks like a tightening," said Alan Ruskin, head of G-10 currency strategy at Deutsche Bank.

"In a way the Fed tightening means there's a resulting euro weakening. It's an effective easing anyway," he said. "They're certainly influencing each other's financials conditions through their actions. If the ECB eases, it tightens financial conditions for the Fed. The Fed tightening eases financial conditions for the ECB."

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Yields on the two-year fell Thursday, but long end yields rose after the Treasury delayed an auction of two-year notes for next week because of the uncertainty around whether Congress will authorize an increase in the federal debt ceiling. The Treasury announced it was delaying Tuesday's auction of two-year notes because it might not be legally authorized to borrow money by the time the auction settles on Nov. 2.

"The bond market is really fighting with itself over a couple of things. You have the strength in equities, which normally would be negative but against that you have these concerns about the debt ceiling," said Tom Simons, money market economist at Jefferies.

"I think it's not huge right now. It's significant in the front end but not the long end of the curve. If we go another week, it could be a bigger part," said Simons. "It's going to have to get closer to the end of the month with no progress for it to filter into the long end of the curve."