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US stocks move higher, helped by Facebook, GDP

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- It was a stock market reversal.

Stocks rose sharply Thursday, with large parts of the market erasing Wednesday's losses, as investors cheered a batch of strong earnings and data that showed the U.S. economy grew at a robust annual rate of 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

Investors also got a welcome respite from the recent turmoil in overseas markets, particularly in Turkey and Argentina.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19.99 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,794.19, with all ten sectors of the index closing higher. That more than made up the 18.29 points the index lost on Wednesday.

The Nasdaq composite jumped 71.69 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,123.13 and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 109.82 points, or 0.7 percent, to 15,848.61.

Facebook jumped $7.55, or 14 percent, to $61.08. The social media company reported results late Wednesday that exceeded the expectations of financial analysts. Facebook's adjusted profit was 31 cents per share, four cents better than forecast.

It wasn't all good news out of the technology sector. Amazon.com sank in after-hours trading after releasing results that fell short of what investors were expecting. The stock of the online retailing pioneer dropped $35.47, or 9 percent, to $367.54.

In other earnings news, Visa rose $3.76, or 2 percent, to $220.88 after the company reported a 9 percent rise in first-quarter profits, beating expectations.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals was the biggest advancer in the S&P 500, rising $28.27, or 21 percent, to $162 after the company also beat analysts' expectations and gave a strong 2014 outlook. Alexion is a specialized drug maker focused on rare genetic diseases.

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