U.S. stocks rose modestly Tuesday as big companies reported their fourth-quarter financial results.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 47 points to 13,697 as of 2:54 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose five to 1,490. The Nasdaq composite average gained three to 3,137.
The indexes spent the morning edging between small gains and losses. Around noon, the Dow rose decisively and maintained its gain.
Earnings so far have been strong enough to drive a five-day winning streak for the S&P 500. Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago, said traders have been encouraged by the number of companies beating analysts' profit expectations.
"Granted, we have diminished expectations, but companies are doing a decent job beating on the profit side," he said.
Ablin said the revenue side of the equation has been weaker, preventing a stronger updraft for stocks. Traders might gain confidence, he said, if companies reported stronger demand from emerging markets and Europe.
"The U.S. has been pulling this wagon by itself for the last couple years, and now we're facing some austerity measures. We could certainly use a hand," he said.
Among the Dow components that reported early Tuesday, chemical and bioscience company DuPont reported a sharp drop in income on weakness in its electronics, communications and other businesses, but the results still beat analysts' forecasts and DuPont's stock rose 94 cents, or 2 percent, to $47.93.
Johnson & Johnson said higher sales helped boost its profit from a year ago, when results were weighed down by a slew of one-time charges. However, the company's 2013 profit forecast fell short of analysts' estimates. J&J dropped 54 cents to $72.69.
Verizon Communications Inc. rose modestly after the country's biggest wireless carrier said it activated a record number of new devices on contract-based plans in the fourth quarter. Verizon's net loss widened on restructuring and pension costs and expenses related to the cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. Its stock rose 13 cents to $42.67.
A fourth member of the Dow 30, property and casualty insurer Travelers Cos., led the Dow higher after it said core income categories like investments and premiums written rose in the fourth quarter. Net income fell because of claims filed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The stock shot up $1.83, or 2.4 percent, to $78.14, after hitting an all-time closing high of $76.31 on Friday.
The market was closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Yet another company hit by Superstorm Sandy was Delta Air Lines, which said its fourth-quarter profit was nearly wiped out after it was forced to cancel more than 20,000 flights. The storm hit Delta harder than other airlines because it slowed operations at Delta's new oil refinery near Philadelphia. Delta rose 45 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $14.06.
Tech behemoths IBM and Google are set to announce their earnings results after the market closes. Tech companies' results are being watched closely because many of them have warned about a weak fourth quarter. Apple reports after the closing bell Wednesday.
Railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern also announce after the close. Rail companies are seen as a bellwether for the broader economy because their results track the demand for transportation of materials used in manufacturing and goods sold to consumers and businesses.
Some homebuilder stocks fell after the National Association of Homebuilders said sales of previously occupied homes dipped to an annual pace of 4.94 million in December from 4.99 million in November. November's figure was revised lower, but was still the highest in three years.
D.R. Horton Inc. lost 13 cents to $21.39. Lennar Corp. fell 14 cents to $41.94.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 1.84 percent.
Asian indexes closed mixed after the Bank of Japan announced a new round of bond purchases that many observers thought was too weak to have much effect on the economy. The BOJ set a 2 percent inflation target and announced open-ended asset purchases starting in 2014.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.4 percent, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent. China's Shenzhen average fell 1.5 percent.
European stocks also were mixed. Germany's DAX closed down 0.7 percent despite strong results from an investor confidence survey in that country. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat; France's CAC 40 fell 0.6 percent.
Benchmark oil rose 56 cents to $96.60 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as global economic reports remained generally positive.
Daniel Wagner can be reached at www.twitter.com/wagnerreports .
- Investment & Company Information