Company results, data lift Wall St; HP rises late

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Stronger-than-expected corporate results and upbeat economic data drove U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) higher on Wednesday as they fed expectations the recovery will bolster corporate profits.

Deere & Co, the world’s largest farm equipment maker, led markets after its results beat expectations and it raised its outlook for the year ahead. Shares gained 5 percent to $56.48.

The optimistic outlook on the economy was underpinned by data showing a six-month high in housing starts and a rise in industrial production in January.

“We had good housing numbers and on the general market we’re back to business as usual: earnings,” said Alan Valdes, director of floor trading at Kabrik Trading in New York.

The results follow the upbeat trend in fourth-quarter U.S. corporate earnings, with more than 70 percent of the Standard & Poor’s 500 companies beating analyst estimates so far, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Keeping up with the trend, technology bellwether Hewlett-Packard Co posted results after the closing bell which were better-than-expected and raised its full-year outlook.

HP shares rose 0.5 percent to $50.60 in after-hours trading.

Healthcare stocks were among the biggest gainers during regular market hours as health insurance providers rebounded from recent declines. The Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index, down in six of the last seven weeks, jumped 1.9 percent, its largest daily gain since mid-January. WellPoint Inc rose 2.1 percent and Aetna Inc jumped 3 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 40.43 points, or 0.39 percent, to 10,309.24. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 4.64 points, or 0.42 percent, to 1,099.51. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 12.10 points, or 0.55 percent, to 2,226.29.

United Technologies Corp shares gained 2.2 percent to $67.35, boosted by the output data and after the company’s chief executive said orders from China were not slowing despite that country’s efforts to curb lending. The CEO also hinted of a possible United Tech stock buyback.

Shares of Whole Foods Market Inc shot up 12.6 percent to $34.35 and boosted the S&P consumer staples sector a day after the supermarket chain posted a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full year outlook.

Walgreen Co shares edged up 0.3 percent to $34.19 after it said it will buy Duane Reade for $618 million in cash, catapulting the largest U.S. drugstore operator into the top spot in New York City.

Among the laggards were energy shares, which gave up some of the gains that led the market to its best day in three months on Tuesday.

Exxon Mobil Corp shares fell 0.8 percent to $65.76 and an index of energy shares declined 0.35 percent.

A total of about 7.76 billion shares was traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year’s estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 2 to 1, and on the Nasdaq nearly three stocks rose for every two that fell.

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(Editing by Kenneth Barry)

Company results, data lift Wall St; HP rises late