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After Market: A Mixed Bag of Economic Reports Lifts Stocks


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The bulls outran the bears in the final hour of trading Friday, allowing the major stock indexes to snap their two-day losing streaks. Economic data was mixed. The headline on the housing front was good -- housing starts rose to their highest level in five months. But multi-family homes drove those construction gains, suggesting rentals will dominate and buyers will remain scarce. Another downer for the markets -- consumer sentiment slipped in May.

Nevertheless, when all was said and done the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 44 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 7, about 0.3 percent each, while the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 21 points, more than 0.5 percent.

Among the stocks to watch: General Motors (GM). Its shares closed slightly lower despite being hit with another fine. It agreed to pay $35 million on top of the roughly $1.5 billion it has already put aside to settle charges related to its ignition switch recall.

And Pfizer (PFE) was up fractionally -- about 0.2 percent, on news that it has jumped another hurdle on the path to getting FDA approval for its experimental breast cancer drug, Palbociclib.

Verizon (VZ) got a boost from an endorsement from superstar investor Warren Buffett. Its stock rose more than 2 percent. A regulatory filing revealed his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) bought 11 million shares of the telecom giant.

Darden Restaurants (DRI) didn't have such a good day. Its stock fell more than 4 percent after it agreed to sell its struggling Red Lobster chain to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion.

And among retailers, there were a few standouts: J.C. Penney (JCP) had a stellar day. Its stock was up more than 16 percent. Sales beat expectations and its quarterly loss was lower than anticipated. It got the thumbs up from at least six brokerages that raised their price targets on the stock. Over the past year, though, the stock is down almost 50 percent.

Nordstrom (JWN) was also en vogue on Friday. Shares were up more than 14 percent after it beat the Street's estimates on earnings.

Other than that, it was a light day for earnings. More than 90 percent of S&P 500 companies have handed in their report cards for the first quarter. The vast majority have beaten expectations.

Finally, this could be a buzz kill for those investing in legal marijuana stocks. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued an alert Friday warning of the high potential for fraud, and put investments in them in the same category as bitcoin and other digital currencies. The bottom line: Think twice before you light up on pot stocks.

What to Watch Monday:

These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
  • Campbell Soup (CPB)
  • Urban Outfitters (URBN)
-Produced by Karina Huber.


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