Stock ended a positive week with the major benchmarks essentially flat Friday after a low-volume trading session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) had small losses, but advancing issues outnumbered decliners.
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Energy was the weakest sector, with the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSEMKT: XOP) losing 1.1%. Meanwhile, the semiconductor industry was among the day's bright spots, and the iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ: SOXX) closed 1.1% higher.
As for individual companies, General Motors (NYSE: GM) raised its outlook due to strong truck sales, and shares of Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) rose in the wake of analysts' upgrades.
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General Motors forecasts a strong 2019
General Motors sparked a 7% increase in its share price when it announced that its 2018 results will exceed previous guidance, and projected that 2019 earnings will also exceed analysts' current expectations. The automaker expects that full-year adjusted earnings, which will be reported on Feb. 6, will exceed previous guidance of $6 per share, and adjusted automotive free cash flow will top the company's earlier estimate of $4 billion.
Looking ahead, GM expects 2019 adjusted earnings per share to be between $6.50 and $7, well ahead of the analyst consensus forecast of $5.88.
GM says it expects the overall U.S. automotive market to be strong in 2019, despite declining car sales. The company is gaining market share in the light-duty pickup truck segment, and expects to launch a new Chevrolet Blazer SUV, a Cadillac luxury SUV, and the Cadillac XT4 this year. The company also had positive comments about the China market, saying it expects flat year-over-year sales there despite recent challenges.
Analysts upgrade Netflix ahead of earnings
Shares of Netflix rose 4% after the stock got some love from two Wall Street analysts. UBS analyst Eric Sheridan upgraded the stock to buy from neutral, and Justin Patterson of Raymond James raised his rating to strong buy from outperform.
Both cited strong subscriber growth and the competitive advantages the company is building for itself with its aggressive spending on original content. The upgrades follow a similar positive review from Goldman Sachs last week, a big night at the Golden Globe awards, and a claim that 45 million of its subscribers watched its horror film Bird Box in the first seven days after its release.
The analyst upgrades would have been more timely last month, when the stock had fallen 45% from last summer's peak, thanks in part to market angst over subscriber growth rates and that heavy spending for new content -- ironically, the very factors fueling renewed optimism now that shares have risen 45% in three weeks. Netflix hasn't released new metrics in the interim, but investors will get an update on Jan. 17, when the company reports fourth-quarter earnings.
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