Wall St. boosted by earnings; on track for best week of year


A woman carries an umbrella as she passes by the New York Stock Exchange on Broad St. in New York's financial district during the morning rush

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A woman carries an umbrella as she passes by the New York Stock Exchange on Broad St. in New York’s financial district during the morning rush October 23, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were on pace to close out their best week in nearly two years on Friday, helped by earnings from Microsoft and Procter & Gamble and as concerns eased over the possible spread of Ebola.

The S&P 500 (.SPX) is up 3.7 percent for the week, putting the index on track for its best week since the start of 2013, boosted by solid corporate earnings reports.

News of the first case of Ebola diagnosed in New York hit futures late on Thursday, but the markets have shaken off those concerns on Friday. A doctor being treated for Ebola in a New York City hospital is in stable condition, the city’s health commissioner said on Friday, while the World Health Organization set out plans for speeding up development and deployment of experimental Ebola vaccines.

“The management of the Ebola virus has given the market some confidence that they can move forward and focus on what pricing is really predicated upon – earnings and data – and in both cases they have been very constructive,” said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York.

Microsoft (MSFT.O) was up 2.2 percent at $46.02, after it reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue while keeping its profit margins largely intact.

Fellow Dow component Procter & Gamble (PG.N) gained 2.9 percent to $85.65. The world’s largest household products maker said it would split its Duracell battery business into a separate company.

Amazon (AMZN.O) plunged 8.8 percent to $285.55 as the biggest drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 (.NDX) after the online retailer’s sales projections for the crucial holiday quarter disappointed Wall Street and third-quarter results missed forecasts.

According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday morning, of 205 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69.8 percent have topped analyst’s expectations, above the 63 percent rate since 1994. On the revenue side, 59.8 percent have beaten expectations, slightly below the 61 percent rate since 2002.

At 2:40 PM the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) rose 108.21 points, or 0.65 percent, to 16,786.11, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 10.43 points, or 0.53 percent, to 1,961.25 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 18.27 points, or 0.41 percent, to 4,471.06.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,775 to 1,254, for a 1.42-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,357 issues rose and 1,277 fell for a 1.06-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 35 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 44 new highs and 40 new lows.

(Editing by James Dalgleish, Bernadette Baum, Chris Reese and Chizu Nomiyama; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)