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Stock Market Has Best Week in 2 Years  10/24 16:38

   The stock market closed out its best week in nearly two years on a positive 
note Friday, helped by strong quarterly earnings from Microsoft and other big 
U.S. companies.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- The stock market closed out its best week in nearly two 
years on a positive note Friday, helped by strong quarterly earnings from 
Microsoft and other big U.S. companies.

   After weeks of speculation over the fate of Europe's economy, Ebola fears 
and plunging oil prices, investors were able to get back to basics. Wall Street 
is in the midst of one of the busiest times of the year, when companies report 
their quarterly results. Ultimately what drives stock prices higher is the 
potential for a company to earn more, so higher profits generally mean higher 
stock prices.

   "What matters most to the market are earnings expectations and corporate 
fundamentals, and so far they're looking pretty good," said Michael Arone, 
chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

   Profits for S&P 500 companies are up 5.6 percent from a year ago this 
earnings season, according to FactSet. That growth is better than the 4.6 
percent increase the market was expecting.

   Quarterly results from Microsoft and UPS helped lift stocks Friday, but 
there have been other strong reports this week. Caterpillar, 3M, Apple and 
others have all came in well above expectations.

   Microsoft's sales and profits were well above analysts' expectations. Cloud 
services, a business the company has focused on, also grew. Microsoft rose 
$1.11, or 2.5 percent, to $46.13.

   UPS also reported strong results and expects December shipments to rise 11 
percent from a year ago. Many investors consider UPS a bellwether for how the 
U.S. economy is doing, particularly during the crucial holiday shopping season. 
UPS rose 11 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $100.59.

   Investors were able to set aside dismal third-quarter results from Amazon. 
The online retailer's stock took a beating, but that wasn't enough to drag down 
the rest of the market.

   The Dow Jones industrial average rose 127.51 points, or 0.8 percent, to 
16,805.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 13.76 points, or 0.7 percent, 
to 1,964.58 and the Nasdaq composite rose 30.92 points, or 0.7 percent, to 

   The S&P 500 rose 4.1 percent for the week, its biggest gain since January 
2013. But volatility can go both ways. Just as the market jumped sharply this 
week, it plunged just as sharply last week. The index is still down 0.4 percent 
for October.

   "We've seen the market sell-off and we saw people buy on the bounce, and 
that looks like it will continue," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer 
at Commonwealth Financial.

   Amazon reported a steeper-than-expected quarterly loss despite soaring 
sales. Investors have grown impatient with the company, which has been unable 
to deliver profits even as it gains ground as one of the world's largest retail 
companies. Amazon fell $26.12, or 8 percent, to $287.06.

   Investors are turning their focus to next week's Federal Reserve policy 
meeting for hints about the future of the central bank's bond purchases and its 
short-terms interest rates.

   The bond-buying program has kept long-term rates extremely low to encourage 
investment and hiring. Recent mixed signals about the strength of the U.S. 
recovery have prompted speculation that the Fed might let the program continue 
for longer than previously anticipated.

   Investors will also get another large batch of quarterly results from U.S. 
companies next week, when 159 members of the S&P 500 index report. Those 
companies include Merck, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Visa.

   The price of oil fell Friday on further evidence of ample supplies and weak 
demand. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.08 to close at $81.01 a barrel in New York.

   Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. 
refineries, fell 70 cents to close at $86.13 in London.

   In New York, wholesale gasoline fell 2.5 cents to close at $2.182 a gallon, 
heating oil fell 1.7 cents to close at $2.482 a gallon and natural gas rose 0.1 
cent to close at $3.623 per 1,000 cubic feet.

   The price of gold rose $2.70 to $1,231.80 an ounce, silver rose two cents to 
$17.18 an ounce and copper was flat at $3.04 a pound.


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