While you were sleeping: Facebook mobile ads surprise

The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced, bolstered by a surge in the shares of Facebook as better-than-expected earnings brightened the outlook for the social media company.

Shares of Facebook soared, last up 27.3 percent, as the company posted earnings that exceeded expectations, helped by sales of mobile advertising. At least 16 brokerages raised their price targets by as much as $US9 per share, according to Reuters.

"FB's massive audience should be irresistible to brand advertisers as the company preps to launch 15-second video ads, which could be Facebook's next billion-dollar business," analysts at Jefferies & Co wrote in a note, Reuters reported.

Also delivering on the results front was Visa, sending its shares up 4.7 percent. General Motors earnings beat estimates as well, though shares fell 0.5 percent.

In late afternoon trading in New York, the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.50 percent, boosted by Facebook, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index eked out a 0.03 percent increase. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.01 percent, as declines in shares of Home Depot and Caterpillar offset gains in those of Chevron and McDonald's.

"We are kind of stuck in that middle ground where data is not bad enough to be encouraging about more quantitative easing, but it's not good enough to convince people that there is enough there fundamentally to justify sharply higher prices," Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at the private-banking unit of KeyCorp in Cleveland, told Bloomberg News.

Of the 233 companies in the S&P 500 that have posted quarterly results so far, 74 percent have exceeded analysts' profit estimates and 57 percent have topped sales projections, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The latest US economic reports provided a mixed picture, too, with jobless claims rising more than expected, while durable goods orders were better than expected.

Jobless claims climbed to 343,000 in the latest week from 334,000 in the previous week. New orders for durable goods increased 4.2 percent in June.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index fell 0.5 percent. France's CAC 40 weakened 0.2 percent, while the UK's FTSE 100 dropped 0.5 percent and Germany's DAX shed 1 percent.

A slump in BASF's second-quarter earnings weighed on the mood, as did disappointing results from Siemens.

Shrinking European markets and slower growth in China weighed on BASF's second-quarter profit and prompted the world's largest chemicals company by sales to call its 2013 profit target into question, Reuters reported.

Siemens said it will miss a target for next year's profit margin, increasing concern that chief executive Peter Loescher is struggling to revamp Europe's biggest engineering company.

Even so, Germany's business confidence increased in July. The Ifo institute's business climate index rose to 106.2 from 105.9 last month, improving for the third straight month.

(BusinessDesk)

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