U.S. Stocks Advance as Commodity Shares Rally Before Data

U.S. stocks rose, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed for four straight weeks, as Exxon Mobil Corp. and U.S. Steel Corp. led a commodity rally while investors awaited data on employment and economic growth.

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest energy company, increased 2.5 percent. U.S. Steel and AK Steel Holding Corp. gained more than 4.4 percent on an industry upgrade by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Kellogg Co. climbed 0.7 percent after announcing it will reduce its global workforce by seven percent as part of a four-year cost-saving plan. BlackBerry Ltd. tumbled 16 percent as Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. walked away from a $4.7 billion takeover plan.

The S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to 1,767.93 at 4 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 23.57 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,639.12. About 5.7 billion shares changed hands, the slowest trading in two weeks.

“The path of least resistance continues to be up,” James Dunigan, who helps oversee $118 billion as chief investment officer in Philadelphia at PNC Wealth Management, said by phone. “In general, the earnings picture is good. Valuations with the market at these levels are probably in the fair range. As you get into year-end portfolio adjustments, playing on that momentum we’ll likely see the market continue to do well here as opposed to selling off. I think if there are any sort of corrections they’ll be short lived in this environment.”

The equity gauge jumped 4.5 percent in October, reaching a record on Oct. 29, as the Federal Reserve decided to continue $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, and companies beat earnings forecasts. Investors are watching data to gauge the health of the U.S. economy after the Fed last week said it needs to see more evidence of sustained improvement before reducing the pace of its monthly bond purchases.

Earnings Beat

Seventy-six percent of the 374 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten analysts’ estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Income for the broad index probably increased 4.1 percent in the third quarter, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The S&P 500 has surged more than 160 percent from a bear market low in 2009 as the central bank introduced unprecedented monetary stimulus to spur growth. The benchmark gauge is up 24 percent this year, poised for the best annual gain since 2003.

The rally pushed the index’s price-to-earnings ratio up 18 percent this year to 16.8, near the highest level in more than three years, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The 15-year average multiple is 19.3.

Economic Data

The economy probably slowed in the third quarter and employers hired fewer workers in October, economists project reports to show this week.

Gross domestic product grew at a 2 percent annualized rate after a 2.5 percent pace from April through June, according to the median forecast of 69 economists surveyed by Bloomberg before Commerce Department figures due Thursday. Growth in consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, was probably the weakest since 2011. Payrolls rose by 125,000 workers last month after a 148,000 gain in September, Labor Department figures may show Friday.

Data today showed U.S. factory orders increased 1.7 percent in September after falling 0.1 percent the prior month. Economists estimated a gain of 1.8 percent for September.

“We’ve been in this slow growth environment for some time and we don’t see it breaking out of the trend,” Rex Macey, who helps oversee $20 billion as chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors in Atlanta, said in a phone interview. “That’s the thing markets kind of like, where it could be a little warmer, but at least it’s not too hot.”

Year-End Momentum

The rally in U.S. equities may accelerate in the final two months of the year and lift the S&P 500 to its biggest annual increase in 16 years, a look at historical data suggests. Since 1928, shares have climbed in November and December 82 percent of the time when the benchmark gauge advanced at least 10 percent through October, data compiled by S&P and Bloomberg show. The mean increase of 6 percent in this period signals that the index could jump to 1,862.79.

In another sign that investor appetite for equities is growing, Twitter Inc. raised the price of shares in its initial public offering, putting it on track to raise $1.75 billion amid brisk demand. Twitter is likely to raise its offering price again as the IPO is already several times oversubscribed at $25 a share, the high end of the range, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge of S&P 500 options known as the VIX, lost 2.6 percent today to 12.93. The measure is down 28 percent this year.

Commodity Shares

All 10 S&P 500 main industries advanced as energy companies climbed 1.3 percent for the best performance. Exxon Mobil increased 2.5 percent to $92.10 for the biggest gain in the Dow.

U.S. Steel climbed 4.4 percent to $26.91 and AK Steel Holding Corp. rallied 8.7 percent to $5. Both stocks were raised to buy from sell at Goldman Sachs.

U.S. steel demand is “heading to a solid sustainable recovery” over coming years, Sal Tharani, an analyst with Goldman Sachs, wrote in a note, boosting the rating on the U.S. steel industry to neutral from cautious.

Coal stocks advanced amid an improved outlook for the steel industry. Alpha Natural Resources Inc., a producer of metallurgical coal that’s used to make steel, jumped 9.4 percent to $8.13. Consol Energy Inc. advanced 3.1 percent to $37.76.

Vulcan, Alcoa

Vulcan Materials Co. rallied 7.7 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $57.78. The producer of construction aggregates reported third-quarter sales of $813.6 million, beating the average analyst estimate by the biggest margin in more than a year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Alcoa Inc. jumped 7 percent to $9.92 for the second-biggest increase in the S&P 500.

Kellogg, the world’s largest cereal maker, increased 0.7 percent to $62.72. The company’s cost-saving program, known as “Project K,” will result in total, pretax charges of between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion, the company said.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. climbed 3.6 percent to $38.21. The teenager apparel retailer was boosted to buy from neutral at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc.

Sysco Corp. gained 4.3 percent to $33.96. The distributor of food to restaurants, hospitals and schools reported profit of 49 cents a share for the fiscal first quarter, beating the average analyst estimate of 47 cents in a Bloomberg survey.

Groupon Results

Groupon Inc. gained 6.4 percent to $10.57. The online-deals provider may “modestly exceed” analyst expectations for quarterly earnings, driven by growth in North America and a rebound in business from Europe, Middle East and Africa, Heath Terry, an analyst with Goldman Sachs, said in a note. Groupon is scheduled to announce results on Nov. 7.

BlackBerry tumbled 16 percent to $6.50 as the company attempts to recover with a management shakeup and $1 billion bond deal. Rather than acquiring the company, Fairfax will invest $250 million in the convertible bonds, according to a statement.

As part of the new agreement, Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins will step down. Former Sybase AG CEO John Chen will become executive chairman, putting him in charge of the company’s strategy.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.