Upbeat earnings boost Wall Street

/ Source: The Associated Press

Better-than-expected profits from Motorola lifted Wall Street higher Monday as investors grew more optimistic that other companies’ third-quarter earnings will be strong. The Dow industrials climbed nearly 100 points.

The Dow Jones Industrial average was up about 94 points in midday trading, having gained 1.1 percent last week, notching up its third winning week in four.

The broader market was also higher. The Nasdaq composite index was some 19 points higher following a weekly advance of 1.9 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up around 9 points, having risen 0.8 percent last week.

Trading volume was light, as the bond market was closed for Columbus Day and Japan’s financial markets were closed for a national holiday. The U.S. stock market was open for a full session.

“It’s a bit of a surprise to see this much strength on a low volume day. You have to give credit to the Motorola numbers,” said Peter Dunay, chief market strategist at Wall Street Access, a New York-based brokerage firm.

But he added, “It’s really anticipation that’s driving the market. Most analysts are now expecting even more from earnings which could put the market under pressure.”

Stocks have rallied sharply since mid-March, but investors are now looking for strong evidence of economic improvement.

Analysts say third-quarter earnings reports, which are released in earnest this week, will be key in determining whether the market can go higher, although some caution that investor expectations might be becoming too high.

“What’s really under the microscope is what investors see for ’04,” Dunay said. “They want to see revenue growth and earnings going forward. It won’t be enough to see companies meeting or beating estimates. They expect all the fiscal stimulus (such as tax cuts) to get the engine moving again.”

Motorola Inc. rose 15 cents to $13.94 after the world’s second-largest mobile-phone maker reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts’ expectations by 2 cents per share.

FedEx Corp. advanced $2.70 to $71.26 after Merrill Lynch raised the parcel delivery company’s stock rating to “buy” from “neutral.”

Computer Associates International Inc. gained $1.35 to $24.85 after Lehman Brothers raised the software company’s stock rating to “overweight” from “equal-weight.”

Losers included EBay Inc., which dropped $2.32 to $58.14 after Citigroup’s Smith Barney division cut the online auction company’s rating to “sell” from “hold.”

On the New York Stock Exchange, advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 4 to 1. Volume came to 317.61 million shares, compared with 327.67 million traded at the same point Friday.

The Russell 2000 index, a measure of smaller company stocks, rose 7.89, or 1.5 percent, to 526.95.

In Europe, France’s CAC-40 advanced 1.7 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 1.1 percent and Germany’s DAX index was up 2.2 percent. Japan’s markets were closed Monday for Health and Sports Day.