U.S. stocks advance on earnings as investors await Obama address

Global Volume

Coca-Cola lost $1.04 to $37.57. The world’s largest soft-drink maker said global volume sales rose 3% during the fourth quarter. That missed the 5.4% growth estimated by Mark Swartzberg, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

Facebook declined 67 cents to $27.59. Carlos Kirjner, an analyst at Bernstein in New York, downgraded the stock to market perform, the equivalent of hold, from outperform, citing a potential slowdown in price-per-ad growth in North America and Europe. He cut the share-price estimate by 18% to $27.

Dun & Bradstreet Corp. sank 6.3%, the most in the S&P 500, to $79.89. The 171-year-old provider of business data and risk-management services reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates on sluggish North American sales.

Style Shift

“Now is an opportune time for investors to shift their focus to value” when looking at U.S. stocks, according to Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets.

Belski’s recommendation reflects a transition that started last year. Shares with low prices relative to sales, earnings and asset values are faring better than those of faster-growing companies, according to a comparison of S&P 500 value and growth indexes. The ratio between these indexes, which the New York- based analyst cited in a Feb. 8 report, has climbed 7.6%  from last year’s low. Even so, it’s below the average end-of-month reading for the past 20 years.

Belski isn’t alone among market strategists in preferring value to growth. Wells Fargo & Co.’s Gina Martin Adams, also based in New York, wrote yesterday in a report that she saw last year’s shift toward value stocks as a turning point.

“We suspect value will continue to have the edge over growth in the months ahead,” she wrote. Shrinking productivity gains point to that conclusion, the report said, as they weigh more heavily on growth companies. Fourth-quarter productivity rose from a year earlier by 0.6%, trailing the third quarter’s 1.8% gain, Labor Department data showed.

Bloomberg News

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