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Tech companies power US stocks to solid weekly gain

The S&P 500 rose to a new high for the year Friday as resurgent technology stocks closed out their best week in four months with solid gains.

Financial, health care and consumer stocks also helped lift the market. The gains erased losses from last week, when the S&P 500 had its worst week of the year. The benchmark index finished at 2,822.48, up 12.6 percent for the year and down 4 percent from the record level set in September.

Technology stocks had their best week since November. Apple ended the week with a 7.6 percent gain, its best week since August. Industrial stocks lagged the market Friday.

Investors bought bonds after a report on industrial production showed a second consecutive monthly decline in manufacturing in the U.S. That sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury lower. It fell to 2.59 percent from 2.63 late Thursday.

Despite the latest gains, global political turmoil, particularly over trade, still weighs on investors, said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management.

“There’s so much importance placed on these geopolitical risks,” Nixon said. “They have to be resolved for the market to go forward.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 138.93 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,848.87. The Nasdaq composite climbed 57.62 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,688.53. The S&P 500’s gain was 14 points, or 0.5 percent.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 3.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,553.54.

Major indexes in Europe and Asia finished higher.

U.S. stocks have had a strong showing this year, with all the major indexes showing a gain of at least 10 percent.

Investors appear to be encouraged by reports that the U.S. and China could be making progress on critical negotiations aimed at resolving a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. China’s congress endorsed an investment law that aims to address complaints, particularly from the U.S., that China’s system is rigged against foreign companies. The U.S. claims China has forced companies to share technology in order to do business in the country.

Traders are also confident that the Federal Reserve will hold off on any action that could jeopardize economic growth. The central bank, which signaled in January that it was hitting pause on its rate hikes amid a slowdown in global growth and the absence of inflation pressures, is holding a meeting of policymakers next week.

Economists expect the Fed will keep rates on hold. Friday’s surge in bond purchases also indicates that investors don’t foresee the Fed raising interest rates any time soon.

“There’s no chance of a rate hike,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird.

Chipmakers made up six of the top 10 gainers in the S&P 500 Friday.

Broadcom led the technology sector rally after the chip provider reported a better-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter profit and told investors that it would return $12 billion to stockholders in 2019 through dividends and buybacks. The stock jumped 8.2 percent.

CEO Hock E. Tan expects the chip business to hit a low in the second quarter and then notch growth during the second half of the year. That assessment helped give other chipmakers a lift. Intel added 1.7 percent and Nvidia gained 2.6 percent.

Health care, financial and consumer stocks also notched solid gains. Biogen added 2.6 percent, Morgan Stanley rose 1.5 percent, and Amazon gained 1.6 percent.

Investors also bid up shares in Ulta Beauty after the cosmetics retailer’s latest quarterly results topped Wall Street’s forecasts. The stock jumped 8.3 percent.

Facebook dropped 2.5 percent on news that two of the social media company’s longtime executives are resigning following the company’s recent announcement that it will shift its emphasis to private messaging from public sharing.

Shares in Tesla skidded 5 percent following the electric car maker’s unveiling of its Model Y, a mid-size SUV that starts at $39,000. The unveiling comes as Tesla tries to expand into the mainstream and cash in on the red-hot market for SUVs.

Boeing shares recovered from an early slide to gain 1.5 percent after a report suggested the aircraft manufacturer will roll out a software fix for its 737 Max airplanes later this month.

The stock has been hammered this week after a 737 Max flown by Ethiopian Airlines crashed Sunday in Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on board. A similar Boeing flown by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189 people. The U.S. and other countries have since grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8.

Shares in Boeing fell 10.3 percent this week. The stock is still up 14.9 percent for the year.

The dollar fell to 111.48 Japanese yen from 111.73 yen on Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1320 from $1.1300.

The price of U.S. crude oil slipped 0.2 percent to settle at $58.52 a barrel, while Brent crude dropped 0.1 percent to close at $67.16 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 0.4 percent to $1.86 a gallon, heating oil slid 0.9 percent to $1.97 a gallon and natural gas gave up 2.1 percent to $2.80 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose 0.6 percent to $1,302.90 an ounce, silver gained 1 percent to $15.32 an ounce and copper added 0.5 percent to $2.91 a pound.

Facebook loses exec as it revamps strategy

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is losing its product chief Chris Cox, a top-ranking executive who spent more than a decade at the company, just a week after CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major new direction for the social network.

The departure, announced Thursday, follows Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook will shift its emphasis to private messaging over public sharing. The change reflects Facebook’s changing audience and continued problems with serving as a conduit for misinformation and vitriol.

Cox, 36, worked closely with Zuckerberg through the company’s ups and downs, having joined up about 20 months after Facebook was hatched in 2004 in Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room.

Cox “is a great guy who is someone who has always tried to do good,” said David Kirkpatrick, an author who became well acquainted with Cox and Zuckerberg while writing a book about Facebook. “My guess is there was some sort of disagreement. He would not be leaving at this challenging time if there wasn’t something else going on.”

Neither Cox nor Zuckerberg specified what led to their split.

“Most all my personal highs and lows of the last decade have been tied up in the journey of this company, with Mark, and with so many of you,” Cox wrote in a post. “This place will forever be a part of me.”

Zuckerberg said Cox first mentioned he might leave a few years ago, but decided to stay on after 2016 as evidence emerged that Russians had manipulated Facebook’s services to provoke discord in the U.S. and influence the election won by President Donald Trump.

“I will always appreciate his deep empathy for the people using our services and the uplifting spirit he brings to everything he does,” Zuckerberg said of Cox in his parting note.

Like many other longtime Facebook executives, Cox is unlikely to ever have to work again if he doesn’t want to. He pocketed $310 million in gains from exercising Facebook stock options from 2014 through 2017 alone, according to the company’s filings with securities regulators.

Zuckerberg also announced another departure — Chris Daniels, who had been overseeing Facebook’s encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. Daniels is leaving less than a year after WhatsApp founder Jan Koum resigned in an apparent dispute with Zuckerberg over the future direction of the widely used messaging service.

Facebook isn’t hiring another executive to replace Cox. Instead, the leaders of the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps that Cox oversaw will report to Zuckerberg. Longtime Facebook executive Will Cathcart will take over Daniels’ job running WhatsApp.

Zuckerberg wants to evolve Facebook’s messaging apps into private forums where people can communicate without worrying about what they are sharing being seen and shared by others.