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Stocks Finish Week With Polite Gains

Stocks in this article: F AMZN PG MRK

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks finished Friday with polite gains as investors looked past a tepid report on economic growth in the first quarter and concentrated on what's shaping up to be a decent first-quarter earnings season.

Amazon (AMZN) was the big winner on Friday, surging nearly 16% after its blowout quarter. More than half of the components of the S&P 500 have reported their numbers now with nearly 73% of companies exceeding Wall Street's consensus view, according to Thomson Reuters.

The year-over-year profit growth rate is running above 7%, better than the flat performance that analysts were expecting.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 24 points, or 0.2%, to close at 13,228. The blue chip index ran as high as 13,267. The S&P 500 was rising more than 3 points, or 0.2%, to settle at 1403.

The Dow, which is now up in four straight sessions, added 1.5% for the week, while the S&P 500 gained 1.8%.

The Nasdaq outperfomed its counterparts with an advance of nearly 19 points, or 0.6%, at 3069. The index, which has benefited from Apple's (AAPL) massive post-earnings rally, jumped 2.3% for the week with Apple rising 5.2%.

Breadth within the Dow was positive with 19 of the 30 components moving higher. The biggest percentage gainers among the blue chips were Cisco (CSCO), Coca-Cola (KO), Kraft Foods (KFT) and McDonald's (MCD), all rising more than 1%.

In the broad market, advancers outnumbered losers by a 2-to-1 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.5-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

Alan Zafran, partner at Luminous Capital, was chalking up Friday's buying to a favorable technical environment. The 1400 level is viewed as key for the S&P 500, and a convincing break above it could lead to the market back toward recent highs.

"The number one driver is technical," says Zafran. "Institutional money is still underweight, trailing the indices and playing catch up. Hedge fund and mutual fund managers are trailing market indices. They've been overly defensive and bearish for the entirety of 2012 so far and they're playing catch up and putting money to work. That's what I think is going on."

"I think that the technical factor is overwhelming whether earnings are good or bad," says Zafran. "And it's overwhelming whether Spain has a debt crisis or not. It's overwhelming whether or not Congress will act like adults and eventually address the fiscal crisis we face. Right now, managers are focused on relative performance versus the index and their hand is being forced to invest."

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