US stocks scored solid gains Friday as the market got a jolt from Microsoft's announcement that chief executive Steve Ballmer will retire within the next 12 months.
The computing giant's shares soared 7.3 percent to $34.75 as Ballmer, who succeeded Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in 2000, said the company would search for a new leader who can take charge of its "transformation to a devices and services company."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46.77 points (0.The broad-based S&P 500 added 6.54 (0.39 percent) at 1,663.50, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 19.09 (0.52 percent) at 3,657.79.
The Commerce Department's unwelcome US new-home sales report for July -- sales plunged 13.4 percent month-on-month -- also proved a catalyst for the rally.
Stocks were in negative territory before the morning report was released, but rebounded as investors weighed the data's implications on a potential Federal Reserve taper of stimulus.
"Questions arose as to whether that data point might convince the Fed to hold off on a tapering announcement at its September 17-18 FOMC meeting," Briefing.com analysts said.
Briefing.com noted there was a "presumption that the answer could be yes."
The markets showed no hangover from the shock of the Nasdaq's three-hour shutdown Thursday on technology woes.
Nasdaq said it was still investigating the issues, and Nasdaq OMX chief executive Robert Greifeld pointed to an outside party in an interview with CNBC television.
"We all have to be aware of the other person not acting always in the proper way, and you have to have your system be able to handle defensive driving," he said, without identifying the person.
Nasdaq OMX shares rebounded 1.2 percent after falling more than 3 percent Thursday.
Shares in youth fashion chain Aeropostale plunged 20.2 percent after turning in a quarterly loss on a 6.4 percent fall in sales for its second quarter, and predicted a poor third quarter as well.
The Gap fared better, slipping 0.1 percent as its second-quarter sales grew and profits rose 25 percent, but the general picture for retailers of hip clothes for the young remained poor.
On Thursday Abercrombie & Fitch shares also plunged on its bad quarter, and sank another 0.4 percent Friday, while shares of another trendy chain, American Eagle Outfitters, were down 2.8 percent.
Bond prices leaped. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond fell to 2.82 percent from 2.90 percent late Thursday, while the 30-year dropped to 3.80 percent from 3.89 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.