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Stocks Continue to Notch Up Gains

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Stocks Continue to Notch Up Gains

Stocks began the trading session nearly unchanged following a day were the S&P 500 notched up an all-time high and the Nasdaq reached a 14 year high. Stocks have shrugged off the weaker than expected economic data released over the past 6-weeks, as colder than expected weather dragged on economic activity. GDP released on Friday was in line with expectations, while earnings continued to show that those companies are performing well.

US data released on Friday came out in line with expectations. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.4% rate, according to the Commerce Department. That was down from the 3.2 % pace reported last month and the 4.1% logged in the third quarter. Economists had expected growth would be cut to a 2.5% pace.

Manufacturing activity was stronger than expected according to the regional Chicago PMI index. The headline index rose to 59.8, well above economist expectorations of 56.4 and up from 59.6 in January. This comes ahead of Monday’s national ISM manufacturing report, which is sure to move the markets.

Stronger than expected Japanese economic data gave Asian stocks a boost. Japanese industrial production grew at the fastest pace since June 2011 in January, jumping 4% month over month after a drop of 0.9% in December. Retail sales added 4.4% vs +2.5%. The strong figures are not a total surprise, as a bump in economic activity has been expected ahead of a rise in sales tax in April, which is forecast to then drag on the economy. Core inflation held steady at 1.3% on year in January, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%.

Salesforce.com’s (NYSE:CRM) net losses widened to $116.6 million in the fourth quarter from $20.8M a year earlier as aggressive spending continued to pressure margins. Earnings per share on an adjusted basis were $0.07 and beat by $0.01, while revenue jumped 38% to $1.15 billion and also topped consensus

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