Stocks: Best monthly gain in a year

chart_ws_index_dow.top.png By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite a mixed performance on Friday, stocks booked the best monthly gain in a year, with the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 both rising nearly 7% in July.

Stocks were supported this month by strong quarterly financial results from major U.S. companies. About 75% of the roughly 300 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far have beat analysts' estimates.

chart_sp500_1mo.01.gif

But the earnings optimism has been tempered by ongoing concerns about the economy, particularly worries that tepid job growth will eventually undermine corporate profits.

"Even though earnings and guidance have been better than expected, there's still skepticism in the market because jobs have been missing in action," said Alec Young, an equity strategist at Standard & Poor's.

Friday's session was choppy, as investors weighed mixed reports on U.S. economic growth, consumer confidence and regional manufacturing activity.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) fell 1 point, or less than 0.1%. The S&P 500 (SPX) index fell less than 1 point and the Nasdaq (COMP) composite gained 3 points, or 0.1%.

The rally this month came after stocks had drifted lower since April as investors grappled with concerns about the debt crisis in Europe and signs the recovery in the U.S. economy will be sluggish.

Stocks slipped Thursday as cautious comments from a regional Federal Reserve president about the health of the economy spooked investors.

Looking ahead, Young said the market could push higher late next week if the government's July employment report comes in better than expected on Friday. Economists believe the report will show employers cut 160,000 jobs in July after a loss of 125,000 the month before.

Economy: Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, rose at a 2.4% annual rate in the second quarter, down from an upwardly revised 3.7% in the first quarter.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected GDP to show an annualized rate increase of 2.5%.

It was the fourth straight quarter of growth, and seemed to back some economists' views that the recession that began in December 2007 ended at some point in the middle of 2009. But the report indicated that consumer spending, which drives the bulk of U.S. economic activity, remained weak.

Separately, the Reuters-University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment index fell to 67.8 in July from 76 the month before. While the index reflected how nervous consumers were about the economy and job market, the decline was slightly smaller than expected. Economists had expected the index to fall to 67.5.

The Chicago PMI, a regional reading on manufacturing, rose more than expected in July. The index rose to 62.3 this month from 59.1 in June. Economists were expecting a reading of 56.3.

Earnings: Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) posted second-quarter results that topped forecasts and said profit tripled in the quarter. Shares rose about 0.1%.

Merck (MRK, Fortune 500) reported earnings per share that beat analysts' expectations, even as net income fell 52% on acquisition costs. Sales growth, however, fell short of expectations. Shares fell 1.5%.

Companies: Walt Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) said early Friday it will sell Miramax Films for about $660 million to an investor group, Filmyard Holdings.

World markets: European stocks ended the day mixed. The CAC 40 in France fell 0.2%, while Germany's DAX gained 0.2%. The FTSE 100 in Britain fell more than 1%.

Asian markets finished lower. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.4% and the Hang Seng lost 0.3%, while the Nikkei in Japan tumbled 1.6%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar was up versus the euro, but down against the British pound and the Japanese yen.

U.S. light crude oil for September delivery rose 59 cents to $78.95 a barrel.

COMEX gold's December contract gained $12.70 to $1,183.90 per ounce.

Bonds: Treasury prices rose, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down to 2.91% from 2.99% late Thursday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

How much of a hit did you take in the recent correction? Are you worried about a bear market? What changes have you made in your portfolio and what changes do you plan on making for the rest of the year? E-mail your story to realstories@cnnmoney.com and you could be featured in an upcoming article. For the CNNMoney.com Comment Policy, click here. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.12%4.18%
15 yr fixed3.25%3.21%
5/1 ARM3.48%3.32%
30 yr refi4.18%4.17%
15 yr refi3.30%3.21%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,042.90 -28.32 -0.17%
Nasdaq 4,493.39 -12.46 -0.28%
S&P 500 1,972.29 -5.51 -0.28%
Treasuries 2.51 0.02 0.68%
Data as of 9:48pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 14.79 -0.32 -2.12%
Bank of America Corp... 17.05 0.04 0.24%
eBay Inc 56.63 3.97 7.54%
Apple Inc 100.75 0.64 0.64%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.20 0.79%
Data as of 4:00pm ET

Sections

CNNMoney's Italian-American investing correspondents did a taste test of Olive Garden's food. They agree with hedge fund Starboard: It's not very appetizing. More

Even limited air operations could cost up to $4 billion a year, says a think tank, while large ground forces could cost $1.8 billion a month. More

Microsoft showed off the new Windows 10 at an event for business customers Tuesday. More

On Wednesday, 17% of First Green Bank's 66 employees will get a raise under the company's new "living wage" program. The guarantee: At least about $30,000 a year. More

This mom of four only makes $29,000 a year and is losing $400 a month because the state is garnishing her paycheck over a debt. Now she is about to be evicted from her apartment. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.