Wall St gains on data, IBM

Investors digest mixed economic data, IBM news ahead of upcoming statement from US Federal Reserve.

United States stocks pushed higher as investors looked ahead to a statement from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday and IBM gave the Dow industrials a boost.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 100 points, or 0.6%, to 15,669 points. The advance came after International Business Machines authorised an additional $US15 billion in share repurchases.

IBM had weighed on the Dow industrials since reporting disappointing results two weeks ago.

The S&P 500 index gained eight points, or 0.5%, to 1,770 points, with telecommunications and consumer-staples shares leading gains in nine of 10 industry sectors.

The Nasdaq Composite Index increased nine points, or 0.2%, to 3,949 points.

The Nasdaq Composite was frozen for nearly an hour during midday trade after Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. experienced problems transmitting data for stock-market indexes. Trading in Nasdaq-listed stocks wasn't impacted.

On Monday, the S&P 500 edged up 0.1% to close at its sixth record high in eight sessions, while the Dow slipped about one point, or less than 0.1%.

"Overall, the data, expectations for the Fed to maintain its policies, and earnings have been supportive of stocks," said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of multiasset strategies at ING US Investment Management.

Apple shares were lower after the technology giant said it sold 33.8 million iPhones last quarter, up 26% from a year earlier. Still, the company reported its third consecutive quarter of profit declines. Earnings per share exceeded expectations and revenue rose more than forecast.

The company's revenue outlook for the current quarter was slightly higher than analysts had projected. The stock had gained 6.8% in the two weeks leading up to its earnings report.

"It's all about Apple today," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager of the $500 million Federated Clover Small Value Fund.

"In general, it seems like consumers are shying away from soft goods, but purchasing larger-ticket items."

Retail sales for September unexpectedly declined 0.1% from August. Economists had forecast a 0.1% rise. Excluding auto sales, though, retail sales rose as expected, adding 0.4% as consumers picked up the pace of spending on electronics, eating out and other nonessentials.

Business inventories for August rose 0.3%, in line with expectations, while the October consumer confidence index fell more than expected to 71.2, a six-month low, from September's 79.7.

At the same time, the producer price index for September unexpectedly dropped, falling 0.1% versus expectations for a 0.2% rise. The gauge of wholesale inflation was up 0.1% when excluding food and energy.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City home price index for August rose 12.8% over year-earlier levels, slightly more than forecasts for a 12.5% rise.

The Case-Shiller reading "showed there is still good momentum in housing prices," said ING's Mr Zemsky. Meanwhile, the lack of inflation illustrated with the producer price index gives the Federal Reserve room to continue its easy-money policies, he said.

Investors will be looking ahead to a statement from the Fed on Wednesday following the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the central bank's policy-setting committee. The Fed is widely expected to keep stimulus measures, including its $85 billion-a-month bond-purchasing program, intact.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.509%.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, said investors are likely to stay on hold ahead of Wednesday's Fed statement.

"The market has had a terrific run here without taking a breather, so we could get a symbolic pullback after the Fed," Mr Cardillo said.

However, he believes any weakness will be temporary, and "should provide an opportunity for investors to get on board." He said he expects the market to continue higher through the end of the year.

"Earnings have been better than expected, and I'm impressed with the multinational corporations," Mr Cardillo said. "And the global economy is picking up."

European markets traded broadly higher as investors looked past mixed earnings updates and continued to bet on further support from central banks. The Stoxx Europe 600 advanced 0.4%. Germany's DAX index rose 0.5% to a new record, while the UK's FTSE 100 added 0.7%, boosted by third-quarter results from BP, which has a heavy weighting in the index.

In currency markets, the dollar nudged higher against the euro and the yen. December oil futures lost 0.7% to $98.02 a barrel, while November gold futures eased 0.5% to $1,344.60 an ounce.

Asian markets were mostly lower. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average slipped 0.5%, and China's Shanghai Composite declined 0.2% to close at nearly an eight-week low.

In other corporate news, Dow component Pfizer rose after the pharmaceutical company's third-quarter adjusted earnings exceeded analysts' estimates. Its revenue was a bit lower than expected amid weakness in its primary-care segment.

US-listed shares of Switzerland's UBS tumbled after the banking company said it has taken action against staff in connection with an investigation into possible manipulation of foreign-exchange markets. Still, the bank reported third-quarter profit improved to 577 million francs ($644.1 million), above analyst expectations for a profit of 569 million francs.

Sears Holding surged after the retailer said it was evaluating separating both its Lands' End and Sears Auto Center businesses. Sears also said same-store sales for the 12 weeks ended Oct. 26 declined 3.7%.

Aetna dropped after posting lower underwriting margins despite third-quarter earnings increasing 4% as the health insurer's revenue and membership rolls were boosted by its acquisition of Coventry Health Care Inc. Adjusted earnings declined more than expected.

Herbalife gained as results beat expectations for the 19th consecutive quarter. The nutritional-supplements maker said third-quarter profit rose 27% amid a jump in world-wide sales.

Corrections & Amplifications An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Mandarine Gestion asset allocation manager Thomas Vlieghe as Vhiegle.

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