Earnings Give Stocks a Boost; Dow Hits Another 6-Year High

U.S. stocks gained Tuesday, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average to close above 11,400 for the first time since early 2000, as a jump in oil prices boosted major energy shares and earnings topped forecasts.

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The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 73.16 points, or 0.64 percent, at 11,416.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed up 8.02 points, or 0.61 percent, at 1,313.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index finished up 5.05 points, or 0.22 percent, at 2,309.84.

The S&P 500 index hit a fresh five-year closing high, while the Dow reached another six-year closing high.

Insurer St. Paul Travelers Cos. (STA) shares rose 5.1 percent after the company posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its 2006 forecast.

"We've gotten good reports from a variety of companies, supporting the thesis that corporate earnings are going to increase in the double digits this year," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer, North Star Investment Management Company.

Interest-rate-sensitive stocks such as financial shares rebounded as investors looked past interest rate concerns fueled by a report on CNBC television the day before. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was reported then as saying some people had the incorrect impression that he was somewhat mild on inflation after congressional testimony last week.

Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) rose 1.6 percent, or 72 cents, to $45.50.

"I think people feel comfortable that we're near the end of the interest rate (raising) cycle," Kuby said. The Fed has been raising short-term interest rates to ward off inflationary pressures since June 2004.

Agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland Co. shares gained more than 10 percent and set a new lifetime high after the company reported a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit. Archer Daniels shares rose $3.90 to $41.90.

Helping the Nasdaq were shares of Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL). The maker of iPod music players has renewed contracts with the world's four largest music companies to sell songs through its iTunes Music Store. Apple shares were up 2.9 percent, or $2.02, at $71.62 on the Nasdaq.

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) posted a sharp rise in subscribers and revenue in the first quarter and raised its forecast for audience growth for this year. Sirius shares rose 5.6 percent, or 26 cents, to $4.88.

Shares of diversified manufacturer Emerson Electric Co. rose 1.3 percent to $86.53 after it reported higher-than-expected earnings.

Shares of St. Paul's rose $2.20 to $45.60.

Earnings for S&P 500 companies are forecast to rise 13.5 percent for the first quarter, up from an estimate of 12.5 percent last week, according to Reuters Estimates.

Crude oil for June delivery settled 91 cents higher at $74.61 in New York over worries about oil producer Iran.

While higher oil prices tend to be negative for the broad stock market because they increase costs for consumers and corporations, they often boost stocks of energy companies.

Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world's largest publicly traded oil company, gained 2 percent, or $1.25, to $64.67 and Chevron Corp. shares advanced 2.7 percent, or $1.63, to $62.80.

"Oil ... is up, and it's been on a steady climb all day, so you've got oil leadership and some of the other commodity-based stocks coming up behind it," said Tim Heekin, director of trading at San Francisco investment bank Thomas Weisel Partners.

The Dow Jones index of home builders' shares fell 1.4 percent after the U.S. March pending home sales index fell 1.2 percent. The data came one day after home builder Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. lowered its second-quarter outlook.

Hovnanian shares fell 6.2 percent, or $2.39, to $36.39.

Trading was active on the New York Stock Exchange with about 1.72 billion shares changing hands, above last year's daily average of 1.61 billion, while on Nasdaq about 2.12 billion traded, above last year's 1.80 billion daily average.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of about 2 to 1 on the NYSE and by 9 to 7 on Nasdaq.

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