* S&P on track for best month since October 2011
* Pfizer up after results, AT&T also rises
* Amazon shares fall ahead of earnings
* Ford tumbles on forecast of slumping European sales
* Dow up 0.5 pct, S&P up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq down 0.2 pct
NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced on
Tuesday, led by defensive sectors, in a sign the cash piles
recently moving into the market are being put to use by cautious
investors to pick up more gains.
The S&P 500 is on track to post its best monthly performance
since October 2011 and its best January since 1997 as investors
poured $55 billion in new cash into stock mutual funds and
exchange-traded funds in January, the biggest monthly inflow on
Among rising defensive shares, which are companies
relatively immune to economic swings, were drugmaker Pfizer
, up 3.2 percent to $27.71 after posting earnings and
AT&T, 2 percent higher at $34.82.
"After the kind of rally that we had since the beginning of
the year, many investors are becoming more cautious but there is
fundamental reasons to be moving in the direction that we are
moving in," said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at
J.P. Morgan Funds.
"The 1,500 on the S&P is the psychological barrier but there
are still more tailwinds than headwinds in the market."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 64.01 points,
or 0.46 percent, at 13,945.94. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 6.45 points, or 0.43 percent, at 1,506.63. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 5.85 points, or 0.19
percent, at 3,148.45.
"Cyclical were moving very nicely, now you see balance with
some of the defensive. Many managers use that as an internal
hedge in equity portfolios," said Quincy Krosby, market
strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.
She said the market is cautious ahead of Wednesday's
statement following the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting. In
addition, defensive stocks would hold up better if Friday's
payrolls report surprises on the downside.
The S&P hovered near 1,500, and market technicians say the
benchmark is at an inflection point which will determine the
overall direction in the near term.
"The public is pouring in now," said Carter Worth, chief
market technician at Oppenheimer & Co in New York. "It reflects
complacency and that typically leads to hubris, and hubris leads
to trouble. Everyone's buying."
The top performing sectors on the S&P 500 were healthcare
and telecom services, so-called defensive
sectors, both up more than 1 percent.
The energy sector also advanced, on the back of strong
earnings from Valero Energy Corp and a hedge fund move
to break up Hess Corp to boost investor returns.
Valero shares jumped 10.8 percent to $42.99 and Hess gained
8.1 percent to $67.56.
The equity gains have largely come on a strong start to
earnings season, though results were mixed on Tuesday with
Pfizer rising but Ford Motor Co down after its report.
Both companies reported profits that topped expectations,
but Ford also forecast a wider loss in its European segment.
Ford dropped 5.6 percent to $13.01 as one of the biggest
percentage losers on the S&P 500.
Thomson Reuters data showed that of the 174 companies in the
S&P 500 that have reported earnings this season, 68.4 percent
have been above analyst expectations, which is a higher
proportion than over the past four quarters and above the
average since 1994.
Disappointing outlooks from Seagate Technology and
BMC Software pressured their shares. Seagate lost 9.6
percent to $33.82 and BMC fell 8.5 percent to $40.70.
Software maker VMware Inc lost 21 percent to $77.71
also after a cautious 2013 outlook.
Amazon was the biggest drag on the Nasdaq with a
3.2 percent drop to $267.17 before its results, expected after
the closing bell.
U.S. home prices rose in November to rack up their best
yearly gain since the housing crisis began, a further sign that
the sector is on the mend, but consumer confidence fell to its
lowest level in more than a year in the wake of higher taxes for