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US: Stocks finish higher on mixed-earnings week

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks withstood some prominent earnings disappointments and another bout of Chinese market volatility this week to finish higher.

The broad-based S&P 500 led the way, tacking on 24.27 points (1.17 per cent) at 2,103.92.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 121.93 (0.69 per cent) to 17,690.46, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 39.65 (0.78 per cent) to 5,128.28.

Wall Street appeared headed for another dismal week Monday when an 8.48 percent drop in the Shanghai exchange, the market's heaviest loss in more than eight years, sparked a big sell-off in the US.

But Shanghai avoided such deep losses in subsequent days, even as the Chinese index closed the week down more than 10 per cent.

"What happens in China gets more nerve-wracking every day," said Hugh Johnson of Hugh Johnson Advisors. "The more you see commodities prices decline... the more you recognize that's linked to what happens in China." A two-day Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting concluded Wednesday with a policy statement that kept the federal funds interest rate unchanged at near-zero and gave no fresh clues on the timing of a long-awaited rate hike.

The statement kept alive the chance of a rate hike perhaps as soon as September, yet also suggested the possibility of a later time-frame. Stocks added to gains in the hours after its release.

"The Fed, as usual, is keeping its options open," said Pantheon Macroeconomics economist Ian Shepherdson.

In the week's most prominent economic report, the Commerce Department estimated second-quarter growth at a solid 2.3 per cent, slightly below the 2.5 per cent consensus estimate, but the strongest pace since the 2014 third quarter's 4.3 per cent.

The government also upgraded its appraisal of the first quarter to 0.6 per cent growth from a 0.2 per cent contraction.

Several prominent technology names suffered big sell-offs after earnings reports disappointed investors.

Social networking stocks LinkedIn, Twitter and Yelp all experienced double-digit routs after their reports suggested dimmer-than-expected growth prospects.

Whole Foods Market also suffered a drop on this scale after executives said sales had been dented from its acknowledgement that it had overcharged customers in New York City stores.

Petroleum-linked stocks were another weak area, with both ExxonMobil and Chevron closing the week out sharply lower after reporting big earnings drops on low oil prices.

But other companies won accolades from the market.

Among tech companies, Expedia soared after earnings quadrupled following acquisitions. Biotech companies Amgen and Gilead Sciences also did well.

Among older companies, Ford Motor and UPS gained on better-than-expected results, while Pfizer also rose after lifting its profit forecast.

The week's biggest deal was the purchase of Allergan's generic drug business by Israeli giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries for US$40.5 billion.

Next week's earnings calendar includes reports from Disney, Time Warner and 21st Century Fox. Auto companies are scheduled to release US sales data for July.

A heavy schedule of economic releases includes reports from the Institute for Supply Management on the services and manufacturing sectors and culminates Friday with the Labor Department's US jobs report for July.

AFP