Earnings lift global equities; dollar dips on QE3 views

NEW YORK Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:21pm EDT

Traders look at computer screens at Madrid's bourse April 12, 2012. A jump in Italy's borrowing costs, reflecting growing concern about a revival of the euro zone debt crisis, put European shares and the single currency under pressure on Thursday. Italian officials have pointed the finger of blame at Spain, whose borrowing costs have soared since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ripped up a 2012 budget deficit target agreed with Brussels. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Traders look at computer screens at Madrid's bourse April 12, 2012. A jump in Italy's borrowing costs, reflecting growing concern about a revival of the euro zone debt crisis, put European shares and the single currency under pressure on Thursday. Italian officials have pointed the finger of blame at Spain, whose borrowing costs have soared since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ripped up a 2012 budget deficit target agreed with Brussels.

Credit: Reuters/Andrea Comas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global stocks ended higher on Friday on strong earnings reports, but the dollar dipped against the euro and the yen as lower-than-expected U.S. economic data fed views that the Federal Reserve could ease policy further to boost flagging growth.

U.S. stocks advanced for a fourth straight day, helped by stronger-than-expected profits at Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Expedia Inc (EXPE.O).

Shares of those companies jumped about 16 percent and 24 percent, respectively, underscoring the importance of quarterly profits in driving equities' recent advance, even as data showed the U.S. economy cooled in the first quarter.

"Earnings have been spectacular, and that's a shot in the arm to investors, but GDP is acting as a counterweight," said David Dietze, president and chief investment strategist at Summit, New Jersey-based Point View Wealth Management.

"When coupled with other weak data, the ghost of a slowdown starts to loom and that's causing investors to pause a little despite better-than-expected results from blue chips like Amazon."

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 23.69 points, or 0.18 percent, to end at 13,228.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX gained 3.38 points, or 0.24 percent, to 1,403.36. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 18.59 points, or 0.61 percent, to 3,069.20.

The U.S. economy, the world's largest, expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, below economists' expectations of a 2.5 percent pace.

The data was "certainly a bit of a mixed picture," said Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at Scotia Capital. "It does open the door for the Fed to remain dovish."

The possibility of more stimulus from the Fed weighed on the dollar, which fell against the euro and the yen. The greenback slipped 0.79 percent to 80.37 yen. The euro firmed 0.24 percent to $1.3240 against the greenback - well within the $1.30 to $1.34 range in which the single currency has spent much of the year.

While the Bank of Japan increased bond buying and made other changes to its purchase program, the measures were seen as incremental rather than significant steps to try to dig the Japanese economy out of the doldrums.

The FTSEurofirst .FTEU3 ended up 0.69 percent at 1,051.50, with record first-quarter orders from Swedish engineering groups Sandvik (SAND.ST) and Atlas Copco (ATCOa.ST) outweighing a Standard & Poor's downgrade of Spanish sovereign debt late on Thursday.

The Spanish downgrade did push that country's 10-year debt yields briefly above 6 percent. Yields on Spain's 10-year bond later slipped to around 5.906 percent.

Data released on Friday highlighted the extent of economic weakness in the highly indebted country, with nearly a quarter of the nation's work force unemployed and retail sales falling for the 21st consecutive month.

Italian yields were slightly higher, but nerves eased as Italy sold 5.95 billion euros of new bonds without incident, though at higher rates.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 4/32, with the yield at 1.9313 percent.

U.S. crude oil futures turned positive in light volume late in the session, helped by short-covering ahead of the weekend. U.S. crude settled at $104.93 per barrel, up 38 cents, or 0.36 percent.

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