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Stocks Gain as Economy, Earnings Strengthen


The Census Bureau also reported Friday that wholesale inventories fell 0.1% in December after rising by a downwardly revised 0.4% in November. Economists expected wholesale inventories to rise 0.4% in December.

Asian markets closed mostly higher Friday following strong trade data from China, though there were some concerns about holiday season-related distortions of the data. The Nikkei in Japan was an exception, however, finishing down 1.8% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up 0.16%.

The DAX in Frankfurt closed up by 0.81% and the FTSE in London settled up 0.57%, as European markets digested the China data and as peripheral bond yields fell.

Gold for April delivery settled down $4.40 at $1,666.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while March crude oil futures closed off 11 cents at $95.72 a barrel.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury climbed 2/32 to dilute the yield to 1.950%. The dollar was down 0.01%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

In corporate news, LinkedIn (LNKD) , the social network geared for professionals, beat Wall Street's earnings expectations . Shares surged 21.3%.

Coinstar(CSTR) , which owns the Redbox DVD kiosks, said fourth-quarter profit declined 27% due to poor performance at its new ventures . Shares slid 7%.

U.S. electronics retailer RadioShack ( RSH ) announced that Walgreen( WAG ) executive Joseph Magnacca has been appointed CEO of the company. Magnacca served as president of Duane Reade from July 2010 to April 2011. Shares gained 10%.

AOL(AOL) said its fourth-quarter revenue grew year-over-year, making for the first quarterly increase in eight years as global advertising revenue rose. Shares popped 7.4%.

Activision Blizzard (ATVI) , the maker of video game "Call of Duty," posted fourth-quarter earnings that topped analysts' estimates as revenue jumped 26% to $1.77 billion. Shares jumped 11.2%.

Activision said Thursday it expects first-quarter adjusted earnings of 10 cents a share on revenue of $690 million. Analysts expect earnings of 9 cents a share on revenue of $693.5 million.

Moody's(MCO) posted fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations by a penny, and better-than-expected revenue. Its full-year outlook also topped estimates, as the rating agency benefited from an increase in global corporate bond issuances.

Still, shares fell 7.7% on concerns that the government might take legal action against Moody's over its mortgage securities ratings after rival Standard & Poor's was accused by the Justice Department of optimistic mortgage-backed securities ratings prior to the financial crisis.

Skullcandy(SKUL) shares tumbled 7% after the audio accessories company said Jeremy Andrus has decided to step down as CEO. The company's founder and former CEO, Rick Alden, will step in as the company's interim CEO.

OpenTable(OPEN) shares rose 7.5% after the online restaurant reservations company beat fourth-quarter earnings estimates as it saw numbers of seated diners grow by 22% from the prior year.