Stocks Surge on GDP, Microsoft Earnings

Stocks rallied Friday, giving the Dow average its biggest one-day point rise since April, as data showed growth in third-quarter gross domestic product exceeded expectations and Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) earnings lifted the technology sector.

Gains accelerated late in the day, with investors shaking off news after midday that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was charged with perjury and other crimes.

The Dow Jones industrial average (search) jumped 172.82 points, or 1.69 percent, to end at 10,402.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) climbed 19.51 points, or 1.65 percent, to finish at 1,198.41. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) advanced 26.07 points, or 1.26 percent, to close at 2,089.88.

The 3.8 percent annual rate in gross domestic product (search) in the third quarter, reported by the Commerce Department, relieved some concern about the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as rising energy prices, on the U.S. economy.

Shares of Microsoft shot up 2.7 percent to $25.53 on Nasdaq and pulled other technology stocks higher as investors were heartened by its earnings. Late Thursday, the world's largest software company reported a 24 percent increase in fiscal first-quarter profit, slightly beating estimates.

"The GDP report looked pretty good, showing greater-than- expected strength, with inflation statistics not bad," said Jon Brorson, managing director of growth equities at Neuberger Berman.

Stocks started and ended the week with a rally, but were down every day in between. For the week, the Dow rose 1.84 percent, while the Nasdaq gained 0.37 percent, and the S&P 500 advanced 1.60 percent.

The Libby indictment was returned by a grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity.

Traders said the market was somewhat relieved that President Bush's top adviser Karl Rove was not also indicted in the case.

"Even at the open, we knew it was just going to be Libby, and if nothing else, at least the uncertainty is gone," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management.

Mike Viracola, managing director at Adams Harkness, said end-of-month positioning by traders also lifted the market.

Cosmetics company Avon Products Inc. (AVP) shares had their largest single-day jump in almost five years, as its financial results were not as bad as expected. Avon shares climbed 12.5 percent, or $3.08, to $27.79 on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the tech sector, Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN) shares rose 1.9 percent, or 53 cents, to $28 on the NYSE and Intel Corp. (INTC) added 2.2 percent, or 49 cents, to $23.33 on Nasdaq.

Blue-chip stocks like Altria Group (MO) and Boeing Co. (BA), as well as retailers Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot , gained after the GDP report. The GDP is the measure of all goods and services produced within U.S. borders.

Altria, parent of cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, was up 2.3 percent, or $1.71, at $75.11, while Boeing, the big U.S. aircraft maker and defense contractor, was up 2.5 percent, or $1.59, at $65.64.

Wal-Mart (WMT), the world's largest retailer, rose 1.7 percent, or 76 cents, to $45.50, while Home Depot, the biggest home improvement retailer, advanced 2.9 percent, or $1.13, to $40.52.

Trading was heavy, with 1.75 billion shares changing hands on the NYSE, well above the 1.46 billion daily average for last year. About 1.88 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, above the 1.81 billion daily average last year.

The number of advancers outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 1 on the NYSE. On Nasdaq, advancing stocks beat decliners by about 2 to 1.