S&P 500 edges higher, helped by gold miners

8:47 pm | July 22, 2013

 

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Mining companies and banks helped the stock market overcome some disappointing quarterly performances on Monday.

Poor second-quarter results from a handful of large U.S. companies weighed on stocks. McDonald’s Corp. fell after its results missed expectations and it warned of a tough year ahead. Media company Gannett dropped after its revenue fell short of financial analysts’ expectations.

But gold and copper prices boosted mining companies, and that helped nudge the market to another all-time high.

Investors are looking ahead a busy week of corporate earnings. More than 150 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index are reporting quarterly earnings over the next four days.

For the most part, corporations have reported results that have beaten analysts’ expectations, though there have been some big letdowns. On Friday, Microsoft plunged after it reported declining revenue and a big write-off on its new tablet computer. Coca-Cola slumped last Tuesday after the company said it sold fewer soft drinks in North America.

“Earnings are not stellar,” said Brad Reynolds, chief investment officer at investment adviser LJPR. “It just seems that the market is OK with that.”

Investors were more than OK with gold Monday. Its price climbed above $1,300 for first time in a month, giving mining stocks a big lift.

Gold gained $43.10, or 3.3 percent, to $1,336 an ounce. Copper rose 4 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $3.19 per pound.

Among mining companies, Newmont Mining rose $1.66, or 5.8 percent, to $30.35. Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold gained 59 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $29.15.

Gold plunged last month because investors thought the Federal Reserve was close to ending its economic stimulus. That pushed up interest rates. And when rates rise, it costs investors more to hang onto gold, which pays no interest.

But with the Fed now willing to continue the stimulus, rates are falling.

The S&P 500 index rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,695.53 on Monday. The index is at an all-time high, though trading volumes were lower than average.

Five of the 10 industry group in the S&P 500 rose. Gains were led by financial companies, which have posted some of the strongest earnings for the quarter so far. They are expected to report average earnings growth of 23 percent. Bank of America added 17 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $14.92.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 1.8 points, or 0.01 percent, to 15,545.55. The slump in McDonald’s stock weighed on the index. The restaurant chain’s stock fell $2.69, or 2.7 percent, to $97.58.

The Nasdaq composite climbed 12.77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,600.39.

One sector that struggled was homebuilders. Sales of previously occupied homes slipped in June to an annual rate of 5.08 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

As a result, Pulte Group fell 22 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $19.14. Lennar fell 73 cents, or 2.1 percent to $34.80.

The stock market has surged in July following a tough June. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spooked investors on June 19, when he seemed to signal that the Fed’s tapering of bond purchases would start later this year. Then, after a couple of weeks of panic in stock and bond markets, Bernanke dialed things back on July 10. That’s when he told the National Bureau of Economic Research, in a speech in Cambridge, Mass., that the economy still needed help from the Fed’s low rates.

The Fed is buying $85 billion of bonds each month to keep long-term interest rates low and to encourage spending.

The S&P 500 has gained 5.6 percent in July. The market last did better than 5.6 percent in October 2011.

Small-company stocks have fared even better. The Russell 2000 closed above 1,000 for the first time on July 5 and is up 7.8 percent for the month. That signals that investors have become more comfortable buying riskier assets.

In commodities trading, the price of oil fell 93 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $106.94 a barrel.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from Friday at 2.48 percent. As recently as July 5, the yield was as high as 2.74 percent.

As of Monday, 63 percent of the companies that have reported earnings have exceeded expectations. That’s above the historical average.

S&P 500 companies are forecast to report earnings growth of 3.6 percent for the second quarter compared with a year earlier, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.

Analysts expect earnings growth to climb to nearly 6 percent in the third quarter and 11 percent in the fourth quarter.

Those forecasts may prove optimistic if economic growth doesn’t accelerate in the second half of the year, said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial.

“I’m a little suspect that we’re going to see double-digit (earnings) growth,” Sheldon said. “We’re more likely in a period of moderate-to-sluggish growth.”

Among other stocks making big moves.

— Hasbro Inc.’s stock rose $1.49, or 3.3 percent, to $46.87. The nation’s second biggest toy maker said Monday that it is expanding a merchandising deal with The Walt Disney Co. for properties including Marvel and Star Wars.

— Yahoo fell $1.25, or 4.3 percent, to $27.86. The company said Monday that activist investor Dan Loeb and two other directors nominated by his hedge fund, Third Point LLC, are leaving Yahoo’s board after big gains in the company’s stock price the past year.

— Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex tissue and Huggies diapers, fell $1.81, or 1.8 percent, to $97.68. The company on Monday reported revenue that fell short of financial analyst’s expectations.

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