April 27 - Stocks rallied on Friday to close out the best week in months as the afterglow from Amazon's stellar results the day before offset softer-than-expected U.S. economic growth. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Wall Street wrapped up a four-day rally as earnings somewhat offset concerns about the economy. Shares of Amazon surged almost 16 percent one-day after the online retailer far exceeded first-quarter expectations. Ford's numbers were ahead of forecasts as sales in North America offset weakness in Europe, but analysts are concerned about the current quarter. And there's also nervousness about Procter and Gamble. Net earnings for the world's largest consumer products company were flat; sales were only up 2 percent, prompting P&G to cut its full-year outlook. The Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew 2.2 percent in the first quarter, which was slower than the 2.5 percent growth predicted by Wall Street, and down from the 3 percent expansion seen in the final quarter of 2011. Consumer spending picked up at the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2010, but was partly offset by the first drop in business spending since the end of 2009. David Levy of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center is skeptical. SOUNDBITE: DAVID LEVY, CHAIRMAN, JEROME LEVY FORECASTING CENTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We had an enormous amount of help from the weather. We didn't lose days for snowstorms. We didn't lose days of people getting to work or to shop because the weather wasn't good, and we had people going out and test driving cars that they wouldn't have done. With all of this going on we should've had an above normal or above trend GDP and we really didn't do so well." That sentiment played out on Wall Street where stocks ended with modest gains. But for the week the Nasdaq had its biggest one-week rally since February. Most of the talk in Europe was about a downgrade of Spanish debt by ratings agency Standard & Poor's. But markets across the region still finished Friday trade higher. Conway Gittens, Reuters