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Big Tech Leads Stocks Higher           07/31 15:57

   Big Tech continues to steamroll through the pandemic, and strong gains for 
some of the market's most influential companies on Friday helped Wall Street 
close out its fourth straight winning month.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Big Tech continues to steamroll through the pandemic, and 
strong gains for some of the market's most influential companies on Friday 
helped Wall Street close out its fourth straight winning month.

   The S&P 500 rose 24.90 points, or 0.8%, to 3,271.12 following blowout profit 
reports from Apple and several other tech titans. The gains didn't come easily, 
though, and the stock market flipped up and down through the day amid worries 
about the economy and whether Congress can find agreement on more aid for it.

   The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down as many as 300 points before 
finishing the day up 114.67, or 0.4%, at 26,428.32. The Nasdaq composite jumped 
157.64, or 1.5%, to 10,745.27 on the strength for tech stocks, which also 
accelerated in the last hour of trading.

   Despite the gains, caution was clearly present across markets as the 
coronavirus pandemic continues to cloud the economy's prospects. The 10-year 
Treasury yield touched its lowest level since it dropped to a record low in 
March. Gold also continued its record-setting run as investors searched for 
safety, while the majority of stocks in the S&P 500 sank.

   Among the laggards were companies that most need the economy to get back to 
"normal" and the pandemic to subside, including many in the travel industry.

   Expedia Group slumped 4.6% after it reported weaker results for the latest 
quarter than Wall Street expected. The company's CEO, Peter Kern, called it 
"likely the worst quarter the travel industry has seen in modern history."

   Energy companies were also weak as the pandemic sucked away demand for oil. 
Chevron dropped 2.7% after it reported a worse loss for its latest quarter than 
Wall Street expected.

   The economy cratered to its worst quarterly performance on record during the 
spring, and worries are high that continuing waves of coronavirus infections 
may halt what had been a budding recovery. An extra $600 in weekly unemployment 
benefits from the U.S. government is expiring with July's end, and Congress 
continues to argue about how to provide more support for the economy.

   Whether Washington can agree on more aid for out-of-work Americans --- and 
quickly --- is the biggest risk for the market in the near term, said Yung-Yu 
Ma, chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management.

   "If it doesn't happen in short order, there's going to be a lot of 
disappointment and unease," he said. "I think lawmakers are perhaps 
underestimating how quickly things could spiral downward without an extension 
in place. It would take only a few weeks before millions of people are cash 

   The S&P 500 made its final leg back into positive territory for the day as 
top Democrats announced a meeting with White House representatives for Saturday 
morning to continue talks.

   Also helping to prop up the S&P 500 was the power of big tech-oriented 
stocks. Amazon, Apple and Facebook each reported stronger profit for the latest 
quarter than Wall Street expected late Thursday, and each rose at least 3.7% in 
their first trading following the reports. They're three of the biggest 
companies in the world, making up nearly 13% of the S&P 500 themselves, so 
their movements hold great sway over indexes.

   Apple was particularly influential, rocketing up 10.5% following what 
Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives called a "Picasso-like performance" for its latest 

   Google's parent company, another behemoth in the market, also reported 
stronger profit than analysts had forecast, but its stock stumbled.

   Not only are Big Tech companies growing faster than the rest of the market, 
some investors have even begun seeing them as safer bets than other stocks 
because the pandemic is pushing more people online and directly into their 
wheelhouses. It's a far cry from 20 years ago when tech stocks were seen as the 
riskiest investments.

   The strength for tech is one of the big reasons the S&P 500 rose 5.5% in 
July, its best month since April. Continued, massive amounts of aid from the 
Federal Reserve has been another linchpin. The index has climbed back within 
3.4% of its record set in February after earlier being down nearly 34%.

   The gains came even though companies have broadly been reporting sharp 
declines in their profits, as investors hope that a vaccine can be developed in 
the next year to corral the pandemic and get the economy closer to normal.

   "The market knows earnings are going to be terrible now, with a few select 
exceptions, for the majority of companies," Ma said. "What's really holding up 
the equity markets is this idea that ?Yes, it's a terrible situation now, but 
the outlook for 2021 and beyond is markedly better.?"

   Other markets have not shown as much exuberance, though. The yield on the 
10-year Treasury ticked down to 0.53% from 0.54% late Thursday. It touched its 
lowest level since March 9, the day it dropped to its record intraday low just 
below 0.34%. The yield tends to move with investors' expectations for the 
economy and inflation.

   Gold for delivery in December, the most actively traded contract, rose 
$19.10 to settle at $1,985.91 per ounce after earlier climbing as high as 

   Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 35 cents to settle at $40.27 a barrel Friday. 
Brent crude rose 37 cents to $43.31 a barrel.

   European and Asian markets closed broadly lower.

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