(By Balachander) U.S. stocks rallied, closing on a sharply higher note, buoyed by strong quarterly results from a number of major companies and positive news from Europe.
S&P 500 Index gained 1.55 percent to finish at 1,390.78. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.50 percent to end at 13,115.54. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 3,042.82, up 1.82 percent.
On the economic front, U.S. housing starts declined 5.8 percent in March to 654,000 but building permits grew 1.1 percent to 747,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Economists expected housing starts of 700,000 and building permits of 713,000. In February, housing starts and building permits came in at 698,000 and 717,000, respectively.
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On the European front, yields on 10-year Spanish government bonds eased below 6 percent after Spain sold 3.2 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in short-term debt, above maximum planned target range of 2 billion euros to 3 billion euros. Another data showed that German economic sentiment unexpectedly improved to 23.4 in April from 22.3 in March, versus expectations of a drop to 19.0.
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In corporate news, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) posted quarterly revenue that trailed consensus estimates, dragging its shares 1.94 percent lower in aftermarket trading.
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Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO) delivered better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue, sending its shares 2.53 percent higher in extended trading.
Intel Corp. (NASDAQ:INTC) retreated 2.46 percent in extended trading after the company reported a drop in quarterly earnings, hit by flat revenue and jump in expenses.
Seagate Technology Plc (Nasdaq:STX) added 2.15 percent, Stryker Corp. (NYSE:SYK) advanced 1.99 percent and CSX Corp. (NYSE:CSX) rose 2.81 percent in aftermarket trading, following their earnings reports.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE:GS) shares were volatile after the bank reported a fall in revenue for the first quarter as investment banking revenue declined though earnings more than doubled from last year.