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Stocks edge higher, helped by gold miners

Steve Rothwell, Markets Writer

Trader Fred DeMarco, center, and specialist Christopher Gildea, right, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, July 22, 2013. The stock market edged higher as a big week of earnings kicked off Monday, with mixed results from a handful of large U.S. companies. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rising commodity prices made up for weak earnings reports on Monday, pushing the stock market slightly higher.

Higher gold and copper prices boosted the stocks of mining companies in early afternoon trading. That helped offset lackluster results from a handful of large U.S. companies. McDonald's stock fell after it reported a disappointing second-quarter and warned of a tough year ahead. Media company Gannett dropped after its revenues fell short of financial analysts' expectations.

It's a big week for corporate earnings. More than 150 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index are reporting earnings this week.

For the most part, corporations have reported second-quarter earnings that have beaten analysts' low expectations, though there have been some big disappointments. On Friday, Microsoft plunged after the software giant wrote off nearly $1 billion on its new tablet computer and reported declining revenue. Coca-Cola slumped last Tuesday after the company said it sold less soda in North America.

"Earnings are not stellar," said Brad Reynolds, chief investment officer at investment adviser LJPR. "It just seems that the market is ok with that."

Investors were more than OK with gold's price Monday. Mining stocks rose after the price of gold climbed above $1,300 for first time in a month. Newmont Mining rose $1.80, or 6 percent, to $30.49 at 12:50 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold gained 66 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $29.22.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,696. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,559. The Nasdaq composite climbed 13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,600.

One sector that struggled was homebuilders. Sales of previously occupied homes slipped in June to an annual rate of 5.08 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

As a result, Pulte Group fell 34 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $19.03. Lennar fell 53 cents, or 1.5 percent to $35.01.

Still, the stock market has surged in July after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke assured investors that the U.S. central bank would not pull back on its stimulus before the economy was strong enough. The Fed is buying $85 billion of bonds to keep long-term interest rates low and to encourage spending.

The S&P 500 has gained 5.6 percent in July. That puts the index on track for it best month since October 2011.

Small company stocks have fared even better. The Russell 2000 closed above 1,000 for the first time July 5 and is up 7.8 percent for the month. That signals that investors have become more comfortable buying riskier assets.

In commodities trading, the price of oil fell 80 cents, or 0.73 percent, to $107.07 a barrel.

Gold gained $39.30, or 3 percent, to $1,332.20 an ounce.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from Friday at 2.48 percent.

S&P 500 companies are forecast to report earnings growth of 3.6 percent for the second quarter, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.

As of Monday, 63 percent of the companies that have reported earnings have exceeded expectations. That's above the historical average.

Among other stocks making big moves.

— Hasbro Inc.'s stock rose 77 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $46.15. The nation's second biggest toy maker said Monday that it is expanding its merchandising relationship with The Walt Disney Co. for properties including Marvel and Star Wars.

— Yahoo fell 96 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $28.18. The company said Monday that activist investor Dan Loeb and two other directors nominated by his hedge fund, Third Point LLC, are leaving Yahoo's board after big gains in the company's stock price the past year.

— Kimberly-Clark, which makes consumer products such as Kleenex tissue and Huggies diapers, fell $1.46, or 1.5 percent, to $97.45. The company reported revenue that fell short of financial analyst's expectations on Monday.