While you were sleeping: UPDATED Amex sets pace as Dow surges 174 points

American Express chief executive Kenneth Chenault

Wall Street bounced back after two days of three-figure losses in the Dow, bolstered by better-than-expected corporate earnings from blue chip stocks such as American Express.

At the close of trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 174.22 points, or 0.85%, to 20,578.71. The Nasdaq Composite Index also rocketed ahead, climbing 0.9% to 5916.78 and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.8% to 2355.84.

US Treasury bonds, meanwhile, declined, pushing yields on the benchmark 10-year note two basis points higher to 2.239% from 2.202% on Wednesday.

Gains in shares of American Express and Goldman Sachs, up 6% and 1.8% respectively, led the Dow higher.

American Express reported a smaller-than-expected decline in quarterly profit and revenue.

Amex's promising start
"Our first quarter performance marks a good start to the year with momentum in the consumer and commercial businesses in the US and in key markets internationally," Kenneth Chenault, chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"The results reflect many of the investments we've been making to grow the business, plus continued progress in reducing operating expenses."

Of the 82 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Thursday afternoon, about 75% have topped expectations, above the 71% average for the past four quarters, Reuters reported.

"As we see a steady stream of earnings, on balance the season has been better and that's helping the market today," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York, told Reuters.

Bucking the trend were shares of Travelers and Verizon, down 1.5% and 0.9% respectively. Verizon fell after the company posted its first quarterly decline of subscribers.

French election looms
Meanwhile, investors are closely monitoring pending elections in France and geopolitical tensions.

"This political uncertainty's not going away for a while," Ben Kumar, a London-based investment manager at Seven Investment Management, told Bloomberg.

"Markets are trying to get their heads around whether that will actually affect company earnings."

Europe's Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.2% increase from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 Index added 0.1%, as did Germany's DAX Index, while France's CAC40 Index advanced 1.5%.

Recent polls showed increased support for centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron ahead of the first round of voting on Sunday.

The CAC 40 is "moving higher on the belief that [he] will make it into the final vote this weekend," Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets in London, wrote in a note, Bloomberg reported. 

"[He is expected to] win the French Presidency in a run off with one or the other of Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Melenchon, neither of whom are viewed as particularly market friendly."


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