U.S. Stocks Climb Toward Record Amid Earnings With GDP on Tap

  • S&P 500 heads for 5th straight monthly gain, up 6% in 2016
  • Fed pledges to tighten gradually amid signs of economy gains

U.S. stocks rose, with the S&P 500 Index staging an afternoon advance as it heads for a fifth monthly gain amid a raft of corporate results. Trading was light as investors awaited a Bank of Japan policy decision and data tomorrow on the strength of the American economy. 

Facebook Inc. advanced after reporting sales and user growth that beat analysts’ projections. Ford Motor Co. plunged as quarterly profit fell short of estimates and it warned that income targets are at risk. Those were just two of the companies moving on a busy earnings day, with more than 60 members of the S&P 500 Index reporting, including Amazon.com Inc., MasterCard Inc. and Alphabet Inc.

The S&P 500 Index rose 0.2 percent to 2,170.05 at 4 p.m. in New York, 0.2 percent from an all-time high set July 22. The index has gained more than 3 percent in July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 15.89 points to 18,456.28. The Nasdaq 100 Index rose, pushing its July gain to 6.9 percent.

U.S. stocks are in a rare holding pattern. Since the S&P 500 hit the fourth straight all-time high on July 14, the benchmark gauge has alternated between gains and losses, finishing every day less than 0.5 percent from the previous close. The 10-day streak is the longest since data began in 1927.

“Earnings have been the story, and that story is getting a little long in tooth,” said Jim Davis, regional investment manager for Private Client Group at U.S. Bank in Springfield, Illinois. “We need something really positive to break out to the upside but at the same token, it’s hard to walk away which is why we’re not seeing a bad sell off.”

The main gauge for U.S. stocks has rallied more than 8 percent since June 27, two days after the U.K.’s secession vote roiled global markets. The index slipped on Wednesday amid earnings reports and a drop in oil. The Fed’s reiteration that it is in no rush to raise interest rates amid tepid inflation weighed on the dollar, which bolstered shares of companies whose fortunes are tied to sales abroad.

While the prospects for additional central-bank support bolstered equities, better-than-forecast economic data and corporate earnings that broadly beat projections have also helped lift the S&P 500 this month. The gauge posted seven records in 10 days in a midmonth stretch, and it’s rebounded 18 percent since its low in February. It’s up 6 percent this year -- one of the best gains in developed-world equities.

With the earnings season almost half way through, more than 80 percent of S&P 500 companies have posted profit that beat projections, while almost 60 percent topped sales estimates. Analysts have eased their expectations for a drop in second-quarter net income to 4.5 percent.

Among other stocks moving on financial results:
* MasterCard advanced the most since March after adjusted earnings topped estimates.
* Whole Foods Market Inc. dropped the most in a year, posting the biggest slide in the S&P 500, as its sales fell short of predictions.
* Raytheon Co. climbed as the defense giant topped profit projections.
* Dow Chemical Co. rose after reporting earnings that exceeded forecasts.
* GoPro Inc. surged after posting an adjusted loss that was narrower than estimated. 
* XL Group Ltd. rose the most in four years after the insurer’s results topped forecasts.

Six of the 10 main S&P 500 groups climbed, with consumer staples adding 0.5 percent to pace gains. Phone stocks slipped, while energy producers retreated with the price of crude.

The CBOE Volatility Index slid 0.9 percent, headed for a 19 percent drop in July, the most since March.

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