S&P 500 posts biggest gain since July

U.S. stocks fluctuated, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (CME:SPM14) posted its biggest weekly gain since July, as shares in technology and small companies fell while investors assessed corporate-earnings reports.

Barrick Gold Corp. dropped and Newmont Mining Corp. advanced as the two gold miners discussed a possible merger, people with the knowledge of the matter said. Halliburton Co. climbed 3.5 percent after forecasting profit growth for the second quarter. Athenahealth Inc. fell 8.1 percent after reporting quarterly earnings that missed projections. Netflix Inc. lost 1.7 percent before it reports results today, pacing a 0.2 percent slide in the Nasdaq 100 Index.

The S&P 500 rose less than one point to 1,864.97 at 10:46 a.m. in New York today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 11.63 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,420.17. The Russell 2000 Index fell 0.4 percent after four days of gains. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 24 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day.

“The few earnings that we’ve had so far have been coming in pretty well,” John Fox, director of research at Fenimore Asset Management in Cobleskill, New York, said in a phone interview. “All the fundamentals still line up that stock prices can go higher. Interest rates are still low, the economy’s getting better. All of that is still a good environment for equities.” 

Earnings Scorecard

The S&P 500 jumped 2.7 percent last week, rebounding from the previous week’s technology-led selloff, as corporate earnings from Morgan Stanley to Citigroup Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. surpassed estimates and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the bank’s commitment to supporting the economy.

The benchmark index is 1.4 percent below its record high reached April 2. U.S. equity markets were closed on April 18 for the Good Friday holiday.

Netflix and Zions Bancorporation are among S&P 500 companies reporting earnings today. More than 70 percent of the ones that have announced results this season have beaten analysts’ profit estimates, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Analysts project that earnings at S&P 500 companies increased 0.7 percent in the first quarter, while revenue climbed 2.6 percent, according to the average estimate.

“I suspect most companies are going to raise guidance for the upcoming quarters thanks to the pumped up demand and the spring thrall,” Patrick Spencer, who helps oversee more than $100 billion as head of equity sales at Robert W. Baird & Co. in London, said in a phone interview. “The economy remains in a sweet spot. I’m very optimistic for this year.”

Leading Indicators 

Data today showed an index of economic strength in the U.S. rose in March by the most in four months, a sign the economic expansion will strengthen following harsh winter weather. The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months climbed 0.8 percent after rising 0.5 percent in February.

In Ukraine, deadly clashes in the eastern part of the country over the weekend led to calls for more U.S. economic sanctions against Russia. At least three people were killed in Slovyansk, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said, as a top security official accused Russia of exploiting the violence to prepare grounds for an invasion.

The shootouts added to skepticism about whether Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union will be able to use an April 17 Geneva accord to hold President Vladimir Putin accountable for easing tensions that the Russian president says he had no role in creating.

Barrick, Newmont

Barrick Gold decreased 2.8 percent to $17.47, and Newmont Mining advanced 6.2 percent to $24.99, the biggest gain in the S&P 500. Talks to merge the world’s largest gold mining companies broke down April 18 amid minor disagreements that leave open the possibility that a deal could be revived, two people familiar with the matter said.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. surged 10 percent to $4.06. The maker of processors for personal computers posted first-quarter profit that topped estimates and forecast second-quarter sales that exceeded forecasts. Micron Technology Inc. added 3.1 percent to $24.65.

Halliburton climbed 3.5 percent to $63.02. The world’s largest fracking service provider said it expects second-quarter profit will grow by 25 percent. The company also reported that earnings in the first quarter increased more than analysts had estimated.

Home Depot Inc. gained 1.1 percent to $77.95. The shares may rise to $95 as the weather improves and the housing market expands, Barron’s reported.

Athenahealth lost 8.1 percent to $133.73. The medical- software company posted first-quarter profit of 12 cents a share, missing the average analyst projection of 16 cents.

Monster Beverage Corp. slid 1.8 percent to $66.31. The energy drink maker reached a settlement agreement to resolve a class-action lawsuit against the company and two of its officers.


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