U.S. Stocks Climb Toward Records Amid Rally in Coke, McDonald’s

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U.S. stocks rose toward records, with the Nasdaq Composite Index at the highest closing level since 2000, as technology shares jumped and Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald’s Corp. rallied after reporting earnings.

Coca-Cola jumped 1.3 percent as it enticed consumers to pay more for its drinks during the quarter. McDonald’s soared 3.1 percent as Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook promised to give details of his turnaround plan next month. Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc., the world’s biggest payments networks, surged the most since October on prospects for business in China. Facebook Inc. slipped while EBay Inc. rallied in late trading after posting results.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.5 percent to 2,107.96, less than 10 points from a record, at 4 p.m. in New York. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.4 percent, bringing it less than 0.3 percent from its all-time high in 2000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 88.68 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,038.27.

“Earnings are coming in better than expected so far, so the dire consequences that were predicted aren’t quite there,” Mark Kepner, an equity trader at Themis Trading LLC, in Chatham, New Jersey, said via phone.

More than 140 companies in the S&P 500 are posting earnings this week. Of the companies that have reported so far, 78 percent beat profit projections and 48 percent topped sales estimates.

While analysts predict an earnings slump through September, they have moderated how steep that will be. They now forecast first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies will drop 4.3 percent, better than April 10 estimates for a 5.6 percent decline.

Record Levels

The S&P 500 is less than 0.5 percent away from a record reached on March 2, the same day the Nasdaq Composite topped 5,000 for the first time in 15 years. While earnings results yesterday weighed on the S&P 500 and the Dow, a takeover offer for Mylan NV pushed the Nasdaq Composite Index higher.

The S&P 500 has struggled to reach its March record amid two drops of more than 2.5 percent, even as equity indexes from Asia to Europe have climbed to multiyear highs. Even as energy and biotechnology shares have rebounded, the gauge has stalled short of the mark 36 straight days, the longest streak since June 2013.

Equities have fluctuated during the past month amid concerns that a stronger dollar and lower oil prices would hurt corporate earnings as the Fed considers raising rates.

Biotech, Internet

“The stock market has been trading in a range for awhile and it seems there’s a little resistance around these levels,” Ron Anari, the Jersey City, New Jersey-based senior vice president of trading at ICAP Plc, said via phone. “Earnings aren’t as bad as expected and if we make it through this season a little better than estimates, we could continue rallying.”

The Nasdaq Composite has jumped 6.3 percent this year, coming within 7 points of its all-time high on March 20 as biotechnology and Internet stocks have rallied. The Nasdaq Internet Index has increased for 13 of the past 14 days.

Technology shares helped push the Nasdaq higher today. Broadcom Corp. advanced 5 percent after reporting first-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates and predicted second-quarter sales that may equal analysts’ estimates, helped by orders from phone makers for other kinds of chips. Micron Technology Inc. added 3.3 percent. Intuit Inc. gained 3 percent.

Tesla Motors Inc. increased 4.8 percent. The maker of luxury electric cars will announce a home battery and a “very large” utility-scale battery on April 30, according to an e-mail sent to investors and analysts Tuesday.

Facebook, EBay

Facebook slumped 2 percent as of 4:35 p.m. New York time. After the market closed, the company posted results that missed analysts’ sales estimates in the first quarter, breaking a trend of far exceeding expectations. EBay Inc. jumped 4.4 percent after giving a quarterly profit forecast that topped estimates.

This week has been light on economic data, giving investors few additional clues on the strength of the economy. A report today showed sales of previously owned homes climbed in March to the highest level since September 2013 as job growth and cheap borrowing costs helped sustain the progress in residential real estate.

All 10 major industries in the S&P 500 rose today, as technology, energy, phone and financial shares jumped more than 0.6 percent.

Coke, McDonald’s

Coca-Cola advanced 1.3 percent as the world’s largest beverage company reported its first quarterly sales gain in two years after higher drink prices helped make up for sluggish demand.

McDonald’s jumped 3.1 percent, the most in almost two months, after Easterbrook said a turnaround plan will “improve our performance and deliver enduring profitable growth.” The prospect of a comeback plan placated investors after profit missed analysts’ estimates and the company posted a sixth straight quarter of decreasing U.S. sales.

Visa surged 4.1 percent and MasterCard increased 3.9 percent. Rules published Wednesday by China’s State Council, which take effect June 1, clear the way for the companies to gain a foothold in an industry that the Central Bank said handles 449.9 trillion yuan ($73 trillion) a year.

It’s the most explicit China’s government has been about its plans to open up the market to U.S. firms, according to David Ritter, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

Boeing lost 1.4 percent for the worst performance in the Dow, after posting higher expenses for the 787 Dreamliner, the plane known for its carbon-composite fuselage and persistent drain on cash.

The continued struggles with the 787 damped investor optimism over a quarter in which the Chicago-based planemaker beat analysts’ profit estimates to extend a five-year streak of matching or topping projections. Boeing also posted negative free cash flow and a 92 percent plunge in operating cash flow.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. fell 7.4 percent, the biggest decline since October 2012. The company posted first-quarter sales that trailed analysts’ estimates, hurt by higher menu prices and supply-chain woes. Supply shortages, which led to “rolling blackouts” of carnitas in recent months, are expected to last until the end of the year, threatening to undercut the restaurant chain’s growth.

D.R. Horton Inc. fell 5.4 percent, the most in three months. The largest U.S. homebuilder by revenue said its entry-level Express Homes division may make up a greater share of sales, putting pressure on profit margins. PulteGroup Inc. slumped 2.3 percent.

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