Stocks Tick Higher as Investors Await Earnings

The Dow industrials rose for an eighth straight session Tuesday, the longest winning streak in four years, as a rebound in oil prices lifted energy shares and Citigroup (C) gained on expectations of big job cuts.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 4.71 points, or 0.04 percent, to end at 12,573.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 3.78 points, or 0.26 percent, to 1,448.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 8.43 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,477.61.

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Reports that Citigroup Inc. will cut at least 15,000 jobs lifted the No. 1 U.S. bank's shares 1.6 percent, supporting the Dow and S&P indexes.

Crude oil prices resumed their climb and helped lift energy companies' shares following Tuesday's rout in oil futures, with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) Corp. boosting the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

"It seems there is a general feeling that we have had our correction and all is well, though I think we will face something of a psychological test as we get earnings reports in the next few days," said Michael Metz, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer & Co.

The major U.S. indexes have retraced most of their losses from late February.

But gains were kept in check due to caution ahead of the earnings season, which Alcoa Inc. kicked off after Tuesday's closing bell. Alcoa reported income from continuing operations of 77 cents per share, matching analysts' average estimate, according to Reuters Estimates.

During the regular session, some investors also were reluctant to take positions ahead of the release of minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting when they appeared to soften their stance on the possibility of raising interest rates in the future.

Citigroup stock rose 1.59 percent to $52.40 on the NYSE.

Alcoa's shares inched up 0.09 percent to $34.90. On Monday, Bear Stearns raised its forecasts for Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum company and a Dow component, and the industry in general.

The outlook for U.S. earnings growth by S&P 500 companies has been scaled back in the past couple of weeks to a gain of 5.0 percent compared with a year ago from an increase of 9.2 percent estimated when the quarter began, according to Reuters Estimates.

Exxon Mobil was up 1 percent at $77.57 and Chevron added 2.05 percent to $77.04, a day after the S&P energy index hit a record, having found a base to mount a sustained rebound from its mid-March lows. The S&P energy index gained 6.63 points, or 1.40 percent, to end at 479.94.

"The surprise is the strong performance of the whole energy sector. In my opinion, that shows there is a real underlying tone of inflation here, but for the moment, nobody seems to be paying any attention to it," Metz said.

U.S. crude oil futures rose 38 cents to settle at $61.89 per barrel, bouncing back from Monday's sell-off on forecasts that Wednesday's government inventory data will show further drops in domestic gasoline and distillate supplies.

In another sign of the housing downturn, D.R. Horton Inc. , the largest U.S. home builder, said orders for new homes tumbled 37 percent last quarter and noted that the spring selling season has begun more slowly than usual.

D.R. Horton shares slid 1.54 percent to $21.70.

Mortgage lenders were also down sharply on concern about the health of the housing market. Impac Mortgage Holdings Inc.

lost 11.96 percent to $4.49 and Novastar Financial Corp. fell 4.1 percent to $4.91.

Overseas, shares extended their rise, pushing the broadest measure of global stocks to a lifetime high as markets in Asia and Australia rose to records.

Trading volume was well below average on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.33 billion shares changing hands. Last year's estimated daily average was 1.84 billion. On Nasdaq, about 1.89 billion shares traded, also below last year's daily average of 2.02 billion.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of about 5 to 3 on the NYSE and by about 8 to 7 on Nasdaq.

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