Dow Back in Black for April, S&P Tops 1400

Stocks finished higher Friday, with the Nasdaq posting its best weekly gain in almost three months, helped by a round of encouraging earnings, a better-than-expected consumer sentiment report and despite weak GDP report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 23.69 points, or 0.18 percent, to finish at 13,228.31, crossing into positive territory for the month.

The S&P 500 added 3.38 points, or 0.24 percent, to end at 1,403.36, crossing above the 1,400 milestone. The Nasdaq climbed 18.59 points, or 0.61 percent, to close at to 3,069.20.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed above 16.

For the week, the Dow jumped 1.53 percent, the S&P 500 rallied 1.80 percent, and the Nasdaq surged 2.29 percent. AT&T was the best weekly performer on the blue-chip index, while P&G slumped.

Most key S&P sectors ended in positive territory for the week, led by telecoms. Consumerstaples finished in the red.

"You continue to see this QE3 carrot get dangled," said Jeff Kilburg, senior development director at TreasuryCurve on CNBC's "Power Lunch." "The sentiment is not so much pessimism, but more uncertainty. So next week, the paramount issue is the jobs number."

Stocks got a lift earlier this week after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that the central bank remains prepared to take action, if needed, to help the economy.

Consumer sentiment inched up slightlyto 76.4 in April from 76.2 in March, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final reading. Meanwhile, economic growth in the U.S. slowed in the first quarterat a 2.2 percent annual rate from the fourth quarter's 3 percent growth, according to the Commerce Department.

"Relative to my estimates, there were a number of offsetting misses, with the overarching theme being stronger household spending (consumption and housing) and weaker business investment...the dagger came from a second straight steep drop in federal government spending due to plunging defense outlays," wrote Stephen Stanley, economist at Pierpoint Securities in a note. "Boy, wait until those budget cuts start to kick in!"

Meanwhile, other experts seemed encouraged by the data.

"For an economy that’s sustained growth pattern, you couldn’t ask for better numbers," said Barton Biggs, managing partner at Traxis Partners on CNBC’s "Squawk on the Street." "The consensus is that the second quarter real GDP is going to be down a little bit from what it was in the first quarter because of the weather. Still, the U.S. GDP compared to almost every other developed economy looks healthy and in pretty good shape."

Among earnings, Amazon surged sharply after the online retailer posted quarterly results that blew past Wall Street expectationsafter-the-bell Thursday. In addition, at least eleven brokerages boosted their price target on the firm.

Ford closed lower after the American automaker posted earnings that slipped from the same period in the previous year, but still topped estimates.

Elsewhere, Procter & Gamble fell after the household products maker reduced its guidance for the yearas the household products maker said it continues to feel pressure from higher commodity costs.

Chevron posted an earnings gainas rising oil prices and refining margins made up for a decline in oil and gas production.

And fellow Dow component Merck edged higher after the drugmaker said its earnings soareddespite lower-than-expected sales.

Expedia skyrocketed almost 30 percent after the online travel agency beat earnings growth expectations, thanks to an increase in its international hotel revenue. In addition, at least eight brokerages boosted their price target on the stock.

Of the 287 S&P 500 firms that have posted quarterly results so far, almost 73 percent have topped earnings estimates.

Vivus closed higher after the FDA approved the drugmaker's erectile dysfunction treatment Stendra. Shares were temporarily halted during the trading session following the news.

Allscripts plunged more than 30 percent after the health care company handed in a weak full-year guidance and announced the resignation of its CFO, three directors and board Chairman Phil Pead.

On the M&A front, Intuit edged higher after the maker of TurboTax agreed to acquire Demandforce in a cash deal worth $432.5 million.

Also on the economic front, employment cost edged up by 0.4 percent in the first quarter, according to the Labor Department, but was still lower than the expected gain of 0.5 percent.

European shares ended higher, fueled by several encouraging earnings reports, which trumped S&P’s overnight downgrade of Spain’s credit rating.

—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC

On Tap Next Week:

MONDAY: Personal income & spending, Chicago PMI, Dallas Fed mtg survey, farm prices, AmEx shareholders mtg, Boeing shareholders mtg; Earnings from NYSE Euronext, Anadarko Petroleum, Shutterfly
TUESDAY: ISM mfg index, construction spending, auto sales, Under Armour shareholders mtg; Earnings from BP, Pfizer, Sirius XM Radio, Broadcom, CBS, Chesapeake Energy, Motorola Mobility
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, factory orders, oil inventories, Pepsi shareholders mtg; Earnings from Comcast, Time Warner, UBS, Barrick Gold, Clorox, CVS, Marathon Oil, MasterCard, Dreamworks Animation, Green Mountain Coffee, Sunoco, Transocean, Visa, Whole Foods
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, productivity and costs, ISM non-mfg index, chain-store sales, Nokia annual mtg, Verizon shareholders mtg; Earnings from GM, Kraft, AIG, LinkedIn
FRIDAY: Government non-farm payrolls, Alcoa shareholders mtg, Berkshire shareholders mtg; Earnings from Berkshire Hathaway

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