Standard & Poor ekes out another small gain

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index eked out its second small gain of the week yesterday as investors pored over the latest earnings reports.

Standard & Poor ekes out another small gain

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index eked out its second small gain of the week yesterday as investors pored over the latest earnings reports.

Norfolk Southern climbed after the railroad company said its fourth-quarter profit rose 24%, better than Wall Street analysts had forecast.

TE Connectivity, an electronics company, was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 after its earnings beat analysts’ expectations and the company posted a strong earnings outlook for the second quarter.

But there were also some high-profile disappointments.

IBM fell after the computing company reported lower-than-expected revenue in the period. AMD slumped after the chipmakers’ first-quarter revenue outlook rattled investors.

Companies are still increasing their earnings and are forecast to log record quarterly profits for the period, but much of the improvement in recent years has come from cutting costs.

As the economy strengthens, investors are increasingly looking for evidence that companies can increase revenue.

“There’s not a lot of cost left for companies to squeeze out,” said Andy Zimmerman, chief investment strategist at DT Investment Partners.

The S&P 500 index rose 1.06 point, or 0.1%, to 1,844.86. The index traded within a range of just six points yesterday. After a small gain on Tuesday, the index is six points, or 0.3%, higher for the week.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 41.10 points, or 0.3%, to 16,373.34. Most of the Dow’s losses came from IBM’s slump. The computer service company’s stock fell 6.18 dollars, or 3.3%, to 182.25 dollars.

In other trading, the Nasdaq composite climbed 17.24 points, or 0.4%, to 4,243.

Among the day’s winners, TE Connectivity jumped 3.70 dollars or 6.6%, to 60 dollars after its earnings report.

Norfolk Southern climbed 4.23 dollars, or 4.8%, to 92.94 dollars after the rail company said its fourth-quarter profit rose 24%.

Despite the lacklustre start to the year, most investors see no cause to call an end to the stock market’s rally just yet. The S&P 500 is down 0.2% in 2014 after a gain of almost 30% last year.

“You had a massive run last year,” said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at BlackRock. “And it’s not unreasonable that the market digests those gains.”

So far, the stock market has failed to get a lift from the company earnings reports that have come out.

Companies are forecast to increase their fourth-quarter earnings by 5.4% over the same period a year earlier to a record 27.77 dollars a share, according to S&P Capital IQ data.

That would be a slight decline from the third quarter growth rate of 5.6% and lower than last year’s pace of 7.7%.

Much like last year, small companies are again outperforming their larger counterparts. While the S&P 500 has moved sideways since the start of year, the Russell 2000, an index that tracks smaller companies, is up 1.5%. The Nasdaq composite is up 1.6%.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.86% from 2.83% late on Tuesday.

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