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Stocks surged again today as investors reacted to strong earnings reports from Google, General Electric, and Chipotle. The S&P 500 hit a record high for the second day in a row, gaining 0.7%, to close at 1,744. Meanwhile, Google's 14% jump helped lift the Nasdaq 1.3%, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) lagged once again, gaining just 28 points, or 0.2%. The blue chips were held back by UnitedHealth, which fell sharply for the second day in a row after reporting earnings Thursday morning, losing 3.7%.
A surprisingly robust economic report out of China also helped lift stocks stateside, as GDP growth in China clocked in at 7.8% in the third quarter, ticking higher from 7.5% in the second quarter. The report helps stem concerns about lagging Chinese demand, and is also good news for a host of commodities-based companies that depend on China to lift prices for metals and other goods.
Riding higher with the earnings wave, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) gained 5.8%, even though its quarterly report is not due out until next Thursday. The impetus for today's jump was an upgrade from UBS, which lifted its rating from neutral, to buy, and gave it a price target of $385. UBS cited Amazon's strong prospects for the holiday season as the e-commerce giant announced plans to hire 70,000 seasonal employees in the U.S., and 15,000 in the U.K., a 40% and 50% increase, respectively, over a year ago. Separately, another research report said that 40% of holiday shoppers plan to do some purchasing online this season, a record high. For Amazon's third-quarter report, analysts are expecting a $0.09 per-share loss on sales growth of 21.4%, to $16.77 billion.
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) had another strong performance, gaining 3.9%, to hit an all-time high as the social networking giant seemed to benefit from Google's blowout earnings report. Also of note, the two rivals have agreed to work together, as Google's Doubleclick has partnered with Facebook. Doubleclick customers will now be able to buy Facebook ads, a move that should serve the interests of both companies. Finally, Facebook modified its privacy rules for teens, deciding it will allow their posts to be seen publicly as opposed to just by friends, as it was before. The move could help keep teens within the grasp of the Internet's second most popular website, as some teens have sought alternative networks where their parents and other adults can't see what they're doing.
Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Facebook, Google, and UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Facebook, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.