Stocks finished higher after a slow start Wednesday, fueled by optimism toward first-quarter earnings and upbeat news from computer maker Apple (AAPL). A decline in Treasury yields ahead of the March labor report Friday helped limit inflation worries, despite higher oil prices, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35.14 points, or 0.31%, to 11,238.99. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index added 5.63 points, or 0.43%, to 1,311.56, close to a five-year high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was up 14.39 points, or 0.61%, to 2,359.75, a fresh five-year high.
Investors were digesting a mix of company news Wednesday. Apple (AAPL) was sharply higher after releasing software that will allow Intel (INTC)-based Macs to run the Microsoft (MSFT) Windows operating system.
Among other stocks in focus, Alcoa (AA) was higher after Credit Suisse boosted its share-price forecast for the aluminum giant from $35 to $37. The Dow component is set to report quarterly results Monday, Apr. 10, when earnings season gets going in earnest.
Earnings news was already beginning to trickle in. Pesticide supplier Monsanto (MON) was lower after posting an 18% rise in second-quarter profit.
Elsewhere, Google (GOOG) was modestly higher after cable giant Clear Channel Communications (CCU) added the company's search and advertising services to its network of radio-station Web sites.
Also in technology, software maker Oracle (ORCL) was modestly higher after bullish comments from Chairman Jeffrey Henley. Separately, disk-drive maker Maxtor (MXO) fell on a lower first-quarter earnings forecast.
M&A activity continued. DaimlerChrysler (DCX) was higher on news the automaker plans to sell part of its stake in European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co.
On the economic front, the Institute of Supply Management's March index on the services industry rose unexpectedly to 60.5 from February's level of 60.1. Thursday brings the weekly jobless claims report, expected to rise 8,000 to 310,000, says Action Economics. The main event is the March labor report Friday, which Treasury Secretary John Snow said will show "good numbers."
In the energy markets Wednesday, May West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures closed up 84 cents at $67.07 a barrel despite weekly inventory data showing a bigger-than-expected supply increase of 2.1 million barrels. A sharp decline in gasoline supplies drove up the entire NYMEX complex, says Action Economics.
European markets finished higher. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 39.4 points, or 0.66%, to 6,044.1. Germany's DAX index gained 15.35 points, or 0.26%, to 6,029.2. In Paris, the CAC 40 index added 15.22 points, or 0.29%, to 5,221.03.
Asian markets finished mixed. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 48.93 points, or 0.28%, to 17,243.98. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was closed for a holiday after Tuesday nudging higher by 36.34 points, or 0.23%, to 16,100.09. Korea's Kospi index gained 3.13 points, or 0.23%, to 1,388.77.
Prices for 10-year Treasury notes were higher at 97-11/32 with a yield of 4.84%, while 30-year bonds rose to 93-27/32 for a yield of 4.89%.