Upbeat results from Google and Boeing led stocks higher for a third straight session today as a widely anticipated rate hike and a little-changed policy statement from the Federal Reserve freed investors to show some enthusiasm.
Apprehension over the Fed’s announcement, and the expected 0.25 percentage point rise in short-term interest rates, overshadowed strong earnings news early in the session.
Some buyers were still holding back even after the decision, in anticipation of President George Bush’s State of the Union address, though no surprises were expected.
However, this was only the first time this year that stocks rose for three sessions in a row. Analysts said Wall Street’s overall mood seemed to be turning more positive after the unusually poor showing for stocks in January.
“We do have an optimistic feeling coming off of earnings season. A good percentage came in above expectations, and there was some racheting up of growth rates from a lot of companies,” said Michael Palazzi, managing director of equity trading at SG Cowen Securities.
“You come off the earnings season, you place your bets, you see how things pan out, and then you say: ‘Okay, why not wait and see what the President has to say?'"
The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 44.85, or 0.43%, at 10,596.79.
The broader gauges also closed higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 3.78, or 0.32%, to close at 1,193.19. The Nasdaq composite index added 6.36, or 0.31%, to end the day on 2,075.06.
The US inventory of crude oil fell by 300,000 barrels last week to 295.3 million barrels, according to the US Department of Energy.
Traders had been expecting crude supplies to grow. US supplies of distillate fuels, which include heating oil and diesel, shrank as expected. Light, sweet crude prices 43 cents to settle at $46.69 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The Fed’s Open Market Committee decision, which brings the federal funds rate - the rate banks charge each other on overnight loans – to 2.5%, eliminated a hurdle for the market, but failed to spark a significant rally.
Investors reacted “according to the script,” said Ned Riley, chief investment officer of Riley Asset Management in Boston.
“The market seems to be taking this in stride. But what I would add, underneath the whole lack of bullishness, is that people don’t like to get in front of the Fed tightening process,” Riley said. “It’s been this way for quite a while now.
"When companies provide pleasant surprises, like Google … the market is willing to pay up. But to anticipate is clearly much less of a practice today than it’s ever been.”
Google surged 7.3%, or $14.06, to $205.96, after reporting fourth-quarter profits that were seven times greater than the previous year.
The owner of the world’s most popular search engine would have earned 92 cents per share, excluding charges, far greater than the 77 cents Wall Street had expected.
Dow Jones industrial average component Boeing was up $1.19 at $52.23 after the aerospace giant’s fourth-quarter profits plunged 84% on charges related to a lost Pentagon contract and the production shut down of its 717 jet.
The results still exceeded Wall Street’s expectations as earnings and sales rose at its defence unit, now by far its biggest business.
Advancers outnumbered declining issues by about four to three on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, was up 3.84, or 0.61 %, at 631.98.