Stocks edge higher on Wall Street; Amazon surges

By BERNARD CONDON,AP Business Writer Updated at 2012-04-27 20:03:44 +0000


NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are trading slightly higher late Friday as investors weigh corporate profit gains against disappointing economic news.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36 points to 13,241 at 3:45 p.m. The Standard & Poor's 500 edged up four points to 1,404. The Nasdaq composite rose 20 points to 3,071.

Amazon rose 16 percent after the online retailer reported a big increase in shipments. Online travel agency Expedia Inc. surged 26 percent on higher profits from its hotel-booking business

Early Friday, the government reported that U.S. economic growth slowed in the first three months of the year. The Commerce Department said that the economy grew at annual rate of 2.2 percent, below the 2.5 percent rate economists had expected. It grew at a faster rate, 3 percent, in the final three months of 2011.

David Rosenberg, chief economist at money manager Gluskin Sheff, said investors bid up stocks on the prospect the Federal Reserve is more likely now to embark on another round of bond buying to stimulate the economy now that it seems weaker

"''(Fed Chairman) Ben Bernanke has created the impression that if the economy stumbles, he'll be there to hold your hand," said Rosenberg.

European stock markets rose as investors shrugged off another downgrade of Spain's debt. The credit rating agency S&P warned that the Spain would have trouble paying down its debt with its economy in recession. Adding to its woes, Spain also reported its unemployment rate rose to nearly 25 percent, its highest in 18 years.

Spain's IBEX rose 1.7 percent, France's CAC-40 1.1 percent and Germany's DAX 0.9 percent.

However the yields on Spanish and Italian government bonds rose, a sign that investors are still uneasy about the ability of those countries to service their debt. The yield on Spain's benchmark 10-year bond rose 0.08 percentage point to 5.87 percent. Italy's 10-year yield rose 0.11 point to 5.64 percent.

In the U.S., Procter & Gamble fell 4 percent after the consumer products giant reported a 16 percent profit slump for the first three months of the year on higher costs for raw materials and restructuring charges. The maker of Bounty paper towels and Luv diapers said it would be rolling back price increases on some products where it was losing market share. It also lowered earnings forecasts for the year.

Starbucks slid 5 percent after the coffee company reported a slowdown of sales in Europe.

Companies in the S&P 500 are now on track to report a 6 percent rise in earnings for the first three months of 2012 versus the same period a year ago, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. A month ago, Wall Street analysts expected earnings this quarter to show no change.