–Stocks push higher after soft reading on 1Q GDP
–Europe gains as good demand for Italian bonds offset Spain’s downgrade
–Amazon.com, Expedia soar as quarterly results exceed expectations
–GDP grows 2.2% in 1Q versus expectations for 2.6% growth
By Chris Dieterich OF DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–Stocks rose as robust quarterly results from consumer-oriented companies overshadowed a softer-than-expected reading on first-quarter U.S. economic growth.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tacked on 19 points, or less than 0.1%, to 13224 in early Friday trading. The Dow notched a triple-digit gain on Thursday to stretch its winning streak to three sessions.
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index advanced two points, or 0.1%, to 1402, and the Nasdaq Composite added three points, or 0.1%, to 3053.
Consumer-discretionary stocks like Amazon.com and Expedia led the market higher. Amazon.com soared 15% in trading after the online retailing giant reported first-quarter revenue jumped 34%. Expedia ran up 25% after the online travel agent booked better-than-forecast first-quarter adjusted earnings and revenue.
Among Dow components, Procter & Gamble shed 3% in trade after the blue-chip consumer goods company topped fiscal third-quarter earnings estimates but came up short of revenue forecasts, and provided a fourth-quarter outlook that was below current projections.
Merck rose 1% after reporting that first-quarter earnings were slightly above estimates but revenue missed targets. The drug maker also affirmed its 2012 earnings outlook.
Stocks rose even as the first take on U.S. economic growth this year came in below expectations. Before the opening bell, the Commerce Department’s first reading on GDP showed that it grew at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of 2.2% in the first quarter of 2012, versus expectations for 2.6% growth.
“The real driver of this market and the reason it’s been able to shrug off bad news is because investors are looking for the [Federal Reserve], and other central banks, to step up and print more money,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital. “If the data continues to deteriorate, it’s going to push the Fed’s hand.”
Still up on the economic calendar is the final reading on April consumer sentiment due at 9:55 a.m. EDT.
European markets traded broadly higher as Italy’s government bond auction went off without a hitch, offsetting investor concern about a credit downgrade for Spain. The Stoxx Europe 600 was up 0.9%, erasing earlier losses of as much as 0.9%.
Italy sold EUR6.25 billion ($8.27 billion) worth of bonds, which was close to the maximum target. Meanwhile, the average yield on 10-year bonds rose to 5.84% from 5.24% at the previous auction on March 29.
Late on Thursday, Standard & Poor’s cut Spain’s long-term sovereign credit rating by two notches to BBB+, as a contracting economy posed risks to government debt. The outlook is negative.
Asian markets were mostly lower, as worries about Spain’s downgrade offset additional easing moves by the Bank of Japan. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average closed down 0.4%, erasing early gains of as much as 1.4%. The BOJ said it would increase its asset-purchase program by a net Y5 trillion, or the equivalent of $6.2 billion, including an additional Y10 trillion in Japanese government bonds. China’s Shanghai Composite fell 0.4%.
Crude-oil futures slipped 0.1% to $104.47 a barrel, while gold futures eased 0.3% to $1,666 an ounce. The U.S. dollar lost ground against the euro and the yen. Demand for Treasury bonds fell, pushing the benchmark 10-year note up to 1.954%.
In other corporate news, Starbucks slid 6.2% after the coffee chain reported fiscal second-quarter results that missed estimates, although the company also lifted its full-year earnings outlook.
Ford Motor gained 0.1% after the auto maker reported first-quarter earnings and revenue that declined from year-earlier levels, but exceeded analyst expectations.
Allscripts Healthcare Solutions tumbled 42% after the health-care records company missed first-quarter earnings expectations and terminated its chairman, which prompted three other board members to resign in protest. Allscripts didn’t give details about why Chairman Philip Pead was ousted.
-By Chris Dieterich, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2611; email@example.com