* China, German data positive
* U.S. trade deficit shrinks
* LinkedIn surges after earnings, outlook
* Indexes up: Dow 0.5 pct, S&P 0.5 pct, Nasdaq 0.9 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Feb 8 U.S. stock index rose on Friday
after a batch of positive economic data points, but gains were
checked with the benchmark S&P index at five-year highs as
investors looked for strong catalysts to push the market further
Data showed Chinese exports grew more than expected in
January, while imports climbed 28.8 percent, highlighting robust
domestic demand, while German data showed a 2012 surplus that
was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years, an
indication of the underlying strength of Europe's biggest
Another positive sign was U.S. economic data which showed
the trade deficit shrank in December to $38.5 billion, its
narrowest in nearly three years, indicating the economy did much
better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.
But wholesale inventories unexpectedly fell 0.1 percent in
December as auto dealers and agricultural suppliers drew down
The S&P 500 has risen for five straight weeks and is
up 6.3 percent for the year. Its advance was helped by
legislators in Washington averting a series of automatic
spending cuts and tax hikes earlier in the year, as well as
better-than-expected corporate earnings and data that pointed to
modest economic improvement but no immediate change in the
Federal Reserve's stimulus plans.
The index, hovering near five-year highs, has found it
tougher to climb in recent days as investors await strong
trading incentives to drive it further upward.
"We are going to have this churn and this consolidation,
which actually isn't a bad thing - it's actually good the market
isn't being so volatile and is actually consolidating because it
is building a base," said Ken Polcari, Director of the NYSE
floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York.
"If it builds a base, from there it is easier to make the
argument that you move ahead."
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.62 points,
or 0.48 percent, to 14,011.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
climbed 7.82 points, or 0.52 percent, to 1,517.21. The
Nasdaq Composite Index rose 27.34 points, or 0.86
percent, to 3,192.47.
McDonald's Corp said January sales at established
hamburger restaurants around the world fell 1.9 percent, a
steeper decline than analysts expected. Still, shares edged up
0.5 percent to $94.11.
Healthcare stocks were among the best performers, with the
Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index up 2.3 percent.
Molina Healthcare Inc surged 12.1 percent to $32.36 as
the biggest boost to the index after posting fourth-quarter
LinkedIn Corp jumped 19.3 percent to $148.02 after
announcing blow-out quarterly profits and a bullish forecast for
the year that exceeded Wall Street's already lofty expectations.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday morning, of
339 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 69.9
percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent
average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters.
Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies grew 5.2
percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at
the start of the earnings season.