Stocks gain on earnings and Fed comments

Stocks rose for a second day as earnings beat estimates at companies from Apple Inc. to Boeing Co., while Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he remains prepared to do more to stimulate growth if needed. Treasuries pared earlier losses and the dollar weakened.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index jumped 1.4 per cent to 1,390.79 at 4 p.m. in New York. The Nasdaq-100 Index rallied 2.7 per cent, the most in 2012, with Apple surging 8.9 per cent for its best gain in more than three years. Ten-year Treasury note yields added one basis point to 1.99 per cent after gaining six points earlier. The dollar fell versus 13 of 16 major peers. Cattle rebounded after tumbling yesterday following the first US case of mad-cow disease in six years.

Apple late yesterday posted earnings that almost doubled, reflecting growing demand for the iPhone in China and helping the most-valuable company rebound following a 12 per cent slide from its record on April 9. The Fed said policy makers expect the economy to accelerate gradually, increasing forecasts for growth and reducing projections for the jobless rate. Bernanke said the central bank remains prepared to take additional action if needed to boost the economy.

"The Fed is providing an insurance policy to the economy," Ann Miletti, senior portfolio manager for Wells Fargo Advantage Funds in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, said in a telephone interview. Her firm manages $US213 billion. "There's a sense that things are improving, yet there's some instability. The Fed is saying that it will be there to help keep things going. Earnings have been strong. The market likes it."

Fed Projections

Fed policy makers repeated the view that borrowing costs are likely to remain "exceptionally low" at least through 2014. Fed officials forecast the unemployment rate would average 7.8 per cent to 8 per cent in the final three months of this year versus a forecast of 8.2 per cent to 8.5 per cent in January, according to central tendency estimates. The economy is forecast to expand at a 2.4 per cent to 2.9 per cent rate this year, compared with a previous forecast for 2.2 per cent to 2.7 per cent.


"We remain prepared to do more as needed to make sure that this recovery continues and that inflation stays close to target," Bernanke said at a press conference today following a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. Officials raised forecasts for the inflation rate this year, as measured by the personal consumption expenditures index, to 1.9 per cent to 2 per cent, from 1.4 per cent to 1.8 per cent. The forecasts reflect the so-called central tendency, which excludes the three highest and three lowest projections of 17 policy makers.

Earnings Season

Quarterly earnings-per-share have risen 11 per cent for the 174 companies in the S&P 500 that reported since April 10, with per-share results beating analysts' forecasts by 9.7 per cent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Before the start of the earnings season, analysts had predicted earnings growth of 0.8 per cent.

Boeing Co. led gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average after earnings beat estimates as the world's largest aerospace company delivered more commercial jets while pushing production to record levels. Caterpillar Inc. had the biggest drop in the Dow as a gain in quarterly revenue trailed analysts' estimates after sales of construction equipment fell in China and Brazil.

Corning Inc., the largest maker of glass for flat-panel television sets, and Harley-Davidson Inc., the biggest US motorcycle maker, also jumped after releasing results that beat estimates.

"The earnings season is shaping up to be quite a bit better than expected," said Mike Ryan, the New York-based chief investment strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas, which oversees $US844 billion. "Remember that the bar was set incredibly low. Overall however, it is supportive for markets. What this tells us is that we are in a more sustainable and durable expansion."

Durable Goods

Equities advanced even as Commerce Department data showed bookings for durable goods dropped 4.2 per cent, the biggest decrease since January 2009. Economists forecast a 1.7 per cent decline, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

Shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, used in calculating gross domestic product, increased 2.6 per cent. The bigger-than-forecast gain in shipments in that category may prompt some economists to boost estimates for growth in the first quarter, while the drop in orders means projections for GDP this quarter may be cut.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 1 per cent, extending yesterday's 1 per cent gain. Electrolux AB climbed 6.5 per cent as the world's second-biggest appliance maker reported first- quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates after raising prices in North America. Swedbank AB rallied 3.5 per cent and Temenos Group AG, a Swiss maker of banking software, jumped 19 per cent after the companies also reported results.

UK Contracts

Benchmark indexes in Germany, Italy and France rose at least 1.7 per cent. The FTSE-100 Index lagged, rising 0.2 per cent, after UK gross domestic product contracted 0.2 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2011, when it shrank 0.3 per cent, the Office for National Statistics said. The median economist estimate in a survey was for an increase of 0.1 per cent. A technical recession is defined as two straight quarters of contraction.

Cattle futures rebounded 0.6 per cent to $US1.12275 a pound after falling by the 3-cent exchange limit yesterday. Japan, the European Union and Taiwan said they'll continue to import US beef after a case of mad cow disease was reported in California, the first in six years. The disease, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was found in a dairy cow in central California, John Clifford, the US Department of Agriculture's chief veterinarian, said yesterday. Meat from the animal didn't enter the food chain, he said.

Oil Supplies

Oil rose 0.6 per cent to $US104.12 a barrel as the Fed's statement overshadowed a US Energy Department report showing supplies increased 3.98 million barrels to 373 million, the report showed. They were forecast to grow 2.8 million barrels, according to the median of 11 analyst estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Oil, which rallied as much as 0.9 per cent earlier today, also retreated from its high of the session after Iran's envoy in Moscow said his country is considering a Russian proposal to halt the expansion of its atomic program to avert new sanctions.

Thirty-year Treasury bonds also declined, sending yields up two basis points to 3.15 per cent. Two-year yields were little changed at 0.27 per cent.

Treasury Auction

The US sold $US35 billion in five-year notes at higher- than-average demand. The notes drew a yield of 0.887 per cent, compared with a forecast of 0.905 per cent in a Bloomberg News survey of 11 of the Fed's primary dealers. The bid-to-cover ratio, which gauges demand by comparing total bids with the amount of securities offered, was 3.09, compared with an average of 2.88 for the previous 10 sales.

Among European bond markets, Germany's 10-year rate increased four basis points to 1.74 per cent and UK gilt yields rose 4.5 points to 2.14 per cent. Rates on Spanish, Italian and Portuguese debt decreased.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index added 0.1 per cent as the Shanghai Composite gauge jumped 0.8 per cent and Taiwan TWSE added 0.9 per cent. Among eastern European markets, Hungary's BUX index rallied 4.2 per cent to lead gains and the forint rose against all 16 major peers after the nation won the go-ahead to pursue a financial aid package.