The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 20, 2013

Futures juiced by U.S. economic growth


Associated Press

NEW YORK — Stock futures are rising and major U.S. indexes appear headed for solid gains after the U.S. reported unexpectedly strong growth during the third quarter.

KEEPING SCORE: Dow Jones industrial futures are up 23 points to 16,138. S&P futures have gained 3.75 points to 1,805.75. Nasdaq futures are up 8.5 points to 3,501.25.

GDP: The U.S. economy grew at its fastest clip since late 2011 from July through September. The Commerce Department reported growth of 4.1 percent, much stronger than most had expected, thanks in part to a resurgent consumer. Consumer spending drives about 70 percent of all economic activity in the U.S. It was the third and final revision from the government for the third quarter. More important still will be what kind of growth occurred during the final quarter of the year, when Americans typically shift into high gear with their spending. Many economists believe that growth in this quarter has slowed to as low as 2 percent.

WEEK 51, 2013: It's been a booming year for stocks and all major U.S. indexes have hit either record or multiyear highs. The Dow hit a record high this week and is up 2.7 percent through the first four days of trading. The S&P appears headed for its 10th monthly gain in the past 12 and it's up nearly 2 percent this week. The Nasdaq has had the weakest week, up 1.7 percent, but has outpaced both the Dow and the S&P in gains this year, surging more than 34 percent.

BLACKBERRY BLUES: There is no end in sight to troubles for the Canadian smartphone maker, which reported a massive $4.4 billion quarterly loss Friday. Revenue plunged 56 percent. The company's CEO was ousted last month after a sale to its largest shareholder was abandoned.

GOLD BLUSH: Gold is edging slightly higher with some investors asking how bad can it get, and it hasn't been this bad in 13 years. That's the last time that gold suffered an annual decline. The decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve this week to start winding down its $85 billion bond-buying program did not help. Prices fell another 3 percent this week, and they are down 30 percent for the year. Gold miners have been hammered this month and shares of major producers are down between 50 percent and 70 percent this year.

STOCKS OF NOTE: Walgreen shares are up 2 percent after reporting Friday that first-quarter earnings jumped 68 percent. The retailer has making some major investments in companies like beauty retailer Alliance Boots and pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen Corp. The Finish Line is up almost 8 percent on strong quarterly earnings, too.

OVERSEAS: China's stock market is on the rocks. Stocks fell 2 percent Friday, closing lower for the ninth consecutive day. That is the worst streak since 1994 with anxiety over another cash squeeze rising. In Europe, the FTSE index of British shares rose 0.4 percent to 6,613. The French CAC-40 gained 0.3 percent to 4,189, while Germany's DAX climbed 0.6 percent to 9,387.