Stocks rebound to trim worst monthly loss since ’10

Oliver Renick

U.S. stocks trimmed their worst monthly rout since 2010, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallying by more than 300 points Friday, after earnings from Microsoft Corp. exceeded expectations and the Bank of Japan stepped up stimulus efforts.

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 Friday that the economy slowed in the fourth quarter, a possibility that had worried investors. But its estimate of the country’s gross domestic product was about equal to analysts’ forecasts and didn’t hurt stocks.

The Dow 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, while analyst expected 0.8 percent. The agency said consumers spent less, businesses invested less, and exports were down because of global instability.

The U.S. economy has been expanding for six and a half years, but on Wednesday the Federal Reserve cautioned that the U.S. economy is slowing down. The Fed also expressed concerns about global growth. Stocks tumbled after the Fed released its assessment.

January was a tough month for the market, and the beginning of the year was the worst in the history of the Dow and the S&P 500. 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 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. That could stimulate investment and growth in Japan.

Stocks have been swinging between gains and losses this week as investors assess corporate earnings and the degree to which central banks will intervene to help stem increasing volatility and a dimming outlook for global growth.

Prior to Friday’s unexpected action from the Bank of Japan to adopt a negative interest-rate strategy, the European Central Bank signaled last week it could boost stimulus as soon as March. The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it was watching to see how the global economy and markets impact the U.S. outlook.