The U.S. economy expanded at a healthy clip in the fourth quarter of 2013. Gross Domestic Product, which is the broadest measure of economic activity, grew at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 3.2%, according to the Commerce Department. Economic activity picked up significantly in the second half of the year. GDP grew 3.7% in the period, compared to just 1.8% in the first part of 2013.
Jobless claims rose 19,000 to 348,000 in the week ended January 25, according to the Labor Department. That was more than economists were expecting. The four-week moving average rose to 333,000, but remained well below the 375,000 threshold, the level below which economists consider the economy in recovery.
The GDP growth was in line with economists’ expectations and consistent with growth outlooks for the coming year. Incoming Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, along with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank all predict U.S. economic growth will speed up in 2014.
Among early movers in stocks, Facebook (FB) was up as much as 18% in early trading. The company reported a 63% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter. After the close Wednesday, Facebook said mobile advertising revenue accounted for 53% of its revenue in the quarter, up from 23% a year earlier. The results should quiet for the moment critics concerned about the possibility that Facebook is losing teen users.
Today is the busiest day of earnings season. More than 50 S&P 500 companies are slated to report quarterly results, including Dow components before the opening bell: ExxonMobil (XOM), 3M (MMM) and Visa (V). ExxonMobil reported earnings per share and revenue that missed analysts' estimates. Revenue fell $5 billion from last year to $110 billion. The company also declared a quarterly dividend of $0.63 a share yesterday. 3M reported earnings rose 15% from last year and met analysts' estimates. Revenue rose 2.4%, but narrowly missed estimates. Visa beat the street on earnings and revenue. The company said profits rose 9% in part because more people used its credit cards for more purchases.