US STOCKS-GE, profits boost Wall St, S&P crosses key level

* GE hikes dividend, shares jump

* Verizon up on gains in wireless business

* Investors digest European bank stress test results

* Indexes up: Dow 1 pct, S&P 0.8 pct, Nasdaq 1.1 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Adds graph 8, updates GE share price in graph 2)

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, July 23 (BestGrowthStock) – General Electric delivered a
shot of confidence to U.S. investors when it raised its
dividend on Friday, pushing the S&P 500 through the key 1,100
level.

GE (GE.N: ) gained 3.3 percent in high volume after the U.S.
conglomerate increased its quarterly dividend by 20 percent.
GE’s move spurred heavy institutional buying and sparked a
decisive move higher, a positive sign of rising investor
optimism.

The wide-ranging impact GE has on the economy, coupled with
another round of strong earnings, bolstered investor
confidence.

“GE is a company whose tentacles extend throughout large
parts of the economy, and (the hike) clearly shows they’re
(having) a bit more visibility on their future cash flows,”
said Adrian Cronje, chief investment officer of Atlanta-based
wealth management firm Balentine.

Still, he noted the new 12 cent dividend was far below the
31 cents per quarter the company paid its shareholders before
February 2009. For GE dividend story see [ID:nN23241252].

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) gained 102.32
points, or 0.99 percent, to 10,424.62. The Standard & Poor’s
500 Index (.SPX: ) rose 8.99 points, or 0.82 percent, to
1,102.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) added 23.58
points, or 1.05 percent, to 2,269.47.

The S&P 500 rose above 1,100 for the first time in a month
after coming close but failing four times in July. The gain —
along with other chart moves, such as a key break on its daily
moving average convergence-divergence, or MACD — sent a
bullish technical signal to investors.

The move above 1,100 needs to hold into next week to
provide a clear signal. And despite a strong short-term
momentum, the benchmark faces a tough hurdle at its 200-day
moving average, a tick above 1,113, and at the midpoint of its
2010 range, near 1,115.

The Nasdaq erased losses for the year and ended flat while
the Dow and S&P 500 remained negative so far in 2010.

Manufacturers Honeywell International Inc. (HON.N: ) and
Ingersoll-Rand Plc (IR.N: ) posted better-than-expected results
and raised full-year earnings views, further allowing investors
to push aside fears of a return to negative growth.
[ID:nN2393794].

Honeywell added 2 percent to $43.50 and Ingersoll-Rand
gained 1.3 percent to $37.29.

“On the whole the earnings season has been strong,” said
Anton Schutz, who manages the Burnham Financial Funds as
president at Mendon Capital in Rochester, New York.

“I think you got a pretty resilient economy despite the
headlines.”

Verizon
after it said its wireless venture added more customers than
expected and that land line profit margins topped estimates.
Its shares were up 3.8 percent at $28.02. [ID:nN2395698]

Genzyme Corp. (GENZ.O: ) jumped 15.4 percent to $62.52 after
French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA: )(SNY.N: ) approached the
biotechnology company about an acquisition. [ID:nN23155324]

Hoping to ease fears over any impact from the euro zone
debt crisis, European regulators assessed how banks would cope
with another downturn. Seven of 91 banks failed the tests,
fewer than expected, but analysts questioned whether the tests
were tough enough. [ID:LDE66M1VZ]

About 8.5 billion shares 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 4 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, about seven
stocks rose for every two that fell.

Investing Tools

(Additional reporting by Joe Rauch in Charlotte; Editing by
Paul Simao)

US STOCKS-GE, profits boost Wall St, S&P crosses key level