Stocks Soar to Finish Tough Month as Tech Stocks Climb

NEW YORK (AP) -
1 Stocks

Stocks soared on the last trading day of January, with Microsoft, Visa and other tech stocks making the biggest gains in a broad market rally Friday.

Indexes rose throughout the day and finished with their biggest gains in about five months. Asian stocks jumped after the Bank of Japan moved to stimulate the economy, and European markets also rose. In the U.S, tech stocks climbed following strong quarterly results from Microsoft and Visa. Materials companies and banks also made large gains, and the price of oil rose for the fourth day in a row.

The U.S. government said that the economy slowed in the fourth quarter. But its estimate of the country’s gross domestic product was about equal to analysts’ forecasts and didn’t hurt stocks.

The& Dow& Jones industrial average surged 396.66 points, or 2.5 percent, to 16,466.30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 46.88 points, or 2.5 percent, to 1,940.24, as more than 480 of its component stocks rose. The Nasdaq composite index jumped 107.28 points, or 2.4 percent, to 4,613.95.

Stocks made some big gains in the last two weeks, but still finished January with hefty losses.

The Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product grew only 0.7 percent over the last three months of 2015. The agency said consumers spent less, businesses invested less, and exports were down because of global instability.

Crude oil prices kept rising. Benchmark U.S. oil added 40 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $33.62 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, gained 85 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $34.74. Oil prices have increased for four days in a row as investors hope for cuts in global production.

U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.93 percent from 1.98 percent. European bond yields also sank. The euro weakened to $1.0829 from $1.0955.

January was a tough month for the market, and the beginning of the year was the worst in the history of the& Dow& average and the S&P 500 index. Both fell into a correction, or a drop of at least 10 percent from a recent peak.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index entered a bear market, which means a 20 percent slide.

The& Dow& and S&P 500 both fell more than 5 percent in January, while the Nasdaq lost almost 8 percent. For each index, that was the largest drop in a single month in years. The Russell finished January down almost 9 percent.

On Friday the Bank of Japan said it will charge money to banks that leave large amounts of cash parked at the central bank. The policy is intended to encourage commercial banks to lend more money.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.8 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 2.5 percent. The Shanghai Composite in mainland China rose 3.1 percent. European indexes also rose. Germany’s DAX climbed 1.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 2.6 percent and France’s CAC 40 advanced 2.2 percent.

Wholesale gasoline picked up 2.4 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $1.103 a gallon. Heating oil added 2.4 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $1.055 a gallon. Natural gas rose 11.6 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $2.298 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose 80 cents to $1,116.40 an ounce and silver gained 1.1 cents to $14.243 an ounce. Copper added 1.6 cents to $2.067 a pound.