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Stocks close higher on strong corporate earnings reports

CNBC logo CNBC 1/23/2019 Fred Imbert
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher Wednesday on the back of strong quarterly earnings from companies like IBM, United Technologies and Procter & Gamble.

The 30-stock index gained 171 points. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq gained 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

Dow members United Technologies and Procter & Gamble both rose more than 4.8 percent after reporting better-than-expected earnings. IBM, another Dow component, jumped 8.5 percent in its best session since Oct. 18, 2017.

"Ultimately, when you look at the data, the thing that matters most to the market is earnings," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, founder of Zoe Financial. "I would say the technology sector is one that could make or break the story for equities. If you look at margins for the sector versus the other sectors, it's by far the largest."

"If you start to actually see margins for the technology sector deteriorate, that's going to basically be something investors are not going to be happy about," Garcia-Amaya said.

More than 14 percent of S&P 500 companies have released their calendar fourth-quarter results so far. Of those companies, 72.9 percent have topped earnings estimates, according to FactSet data. However, only 58.7 percent of those companies have beaten sales forecasts.

Overall, profits for the companies that have reported have grown by 13.2 percent, slightly above expectations. However, that would be the slowest pace of earnings growth since the fourth quarter of 2017, when S&P 500 profits expanded by 15.5 percent.

Wednesday's move higher came after steep losses in the previous session. On Tuesday, the Dow snapped its four-day winning streak, closing down more than 300 points lower, as global growth fears added jitters to market sentiment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised down its estimates for global growth earlier this week, projecting a 3.5 percent growth rate across the globe in 2019, and 3.6 percent for next year. The fund had already slashed its forecasts back in October, due to trade tensions, however issues still remain as the institution keeps its eye on other topics filled with uncertainty, such as Brexit. Weak economic data out of China didn't ease fears either.

Meanwhile, investors continue to keep a close eye on trade negotiations with the China.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Tuesday that reports of a meeting between U.S. and Chinese trade officials had been canceled. He added that no intermediate gatherings had been scheduled other than the visit by China Vice Premier Liu He.

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