Stocks Rally As Oil Drops, Earnings Rise

U.S. stocks rose Tuesday after a sharp drop in crude oil prices helped spark a late afternoon rebound and let investors focus on strong earnings from companies such as United Technologies Corp. (UTX) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO)

The Dow Jones industrial average rallied 51.87 points, or 0.48 percent, to end at 10,799.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index edged up 2.37 points, or 0.19 percent, to finish at 1,236.86. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 5.50 points, or 0.27 percent, to 2,043.22.

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U.S. crude oil futures prices dropped more than 2 percent late Tuesday afternoon amid signs that the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon would not flare into a regional confrontation.

Shares of United Technologies and Coca-Cola climbed and buoyed the blue-chip Dow. The diversified manufacturer's results topped forecasts and the company raised its full-year profit outlook. Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft drink company, reported stronger-than-expected quarterly profit Tuesday.

"With oil coming off today — that probably helped the market get some support," said Sam Rahman, portfolio manager at Baring Asset Management in Boston.

"Investors are seeing that things will not get really bad and that was supporting markets toward the end of the session," he added. "The earnings news was good. United Technologies was good. Coke was good."

The market's late afternoon advance helped the Nasdaq recover from its earlier slide to a 14-month low at 2,012.78.

Coca-Cola shares rose 2 percent, or 85 cents, to $43.55 and United Technologies advanced 1.6 percent, or 92 cents, to $58.88 on the New York Stock Exchange.

U.S. crude oil for August delivery fell $1.76, or 2.3 percent, to settle at $73.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In spite of the sharp pullback in oil prices, shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) rose almost 1 percent, or 61 cents, to close at $64.61 on the NYSE. Earlier in the day, the company said a strike at its subsidiary in Chad was not affecting its output from the landlocked country in central Africa. Exxon Mobil was the top gainer in the S&P 500.

For most of the session, the three major U.S. stock indexes had been in negative territory on concerns about the outlook for profit growth and the economy.

Shares of Target Corp. (TGT), the No. 2 U.S. discount store chain, lost 4.3 percent, or $2.02, to $45.53 and dragged down other retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's largest retailer and a Dow component.

Late Monday, Target had lowered its July sales growth outlook to a range of 3 percent to 4 percent from a previous estimate of 4 percent to 6 percent.

Wal-Mart shares, which had fallen to a fresh 52-week low at $42.31, turned higher late in the session and closed at $43.17, up 0.4 percent, or 15 cents.

An S&P retailers index fell 2 percent.

"Retailers are beaten up, and they keep getting beaten up. That tells you the economy is going to slow," said Todd Leone, head of listed trading at Cowen & Co. in New York.

Home builders' shares also fell after an index of U.S. home-builder optimism plummeted to its lowest level in more than 14 years.

A Dow Jones index of home-building stocks ended down 1.9 percent at 557.76, after earlier falling almost 4 percent to 546.35, a fresh two-year low.

Shares of D.R. Horton Inc. (DHI), the largest U.S. home builder, plunged 3.5 percent, or 72 cents, to $20, just above a fresh 52-week low at $19.72, while Toll Brothers fell 3.1 percent, or 72 cents, to $22.67, not far above a new 52-week low at $22.22.

Trading was heavy on the New York Stock Exchange, where about 1.72 billion shares changed hands, above last year's daily average of 1.61 billion. On Nasdaq, about 2.06 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 1.80 billion.

On the NYSE, advancing shares outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of about 9 to 7, while on Nasdaq, about eight stocks rose for every seven that fell.

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