Stocks mixed as S&P 500 inches to new high

Stocks were largely flat on Wall Street Monday as the Standard & Poor's 500 index inched to a new high. Rising company profits have been one of the key supports for this year's rally in stocks.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Strong earning reports have boosted stocks this year.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index eked out the smallest of gains to set a record high Monday as investors assessed third-quarter earnings news.

Earnings will hold investors' attention this week as major U.S. companies including McDonald's, Boeing and Procter & Gamble report their results. Rising profits have been one of the key supports for this year's rally in stocks.

Toymaker Hasbro and the V.F. Corporation, which owns clothing brands including Wrangler and The North Face, were among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500 after reporting earnings that beat analysts' expectations. McDonalds dipped after reporting disappointing revenue.

The S&P 500 closed up a fraction of a point at 1,744.66, an all-time high, its third consecutive record close. Stocks climbed last week after Washington reached a deal to end a 16-day government shutdown and avert a default on the nation's debt. 

The index is up 22 percent so far this year, putting it on track for its best year since 2009.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 7.45 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,392.20. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.77 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,920.05.

Stocks will likely continue adding to their gains, at least until the end of the year, as investors get more confident that the market's rally is sustainable, said Joe Bell, a senior equities analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

"We've had a pretty decent run here," Bell said. "It wouldn't surprise me if we saw the momentum slow a bit through the end of October and then have a nice rally through November and December."

McDonald's fell 61 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $94.59 after the world's biggest hamburger chain's revenue fell short of Wall Street analyst's expectations.

Hasbro surged after reporting that its net income rose 17 percent as sales increased. Its adjusted results and revenue topped analysts' estimates. The stock climbed $2.48, or 5.2 percent, to $49.72. V.F. Corporation rose $6.93, or 3.4 percent, to $211.23 after its earnings beat analysts' expectations.

Netflix jumped in after-hours trading after the company said its net income quadrupled to $32 million, or 52 cents a share. That beat analyst expectations for 48 cents a share.

Companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report earnings growth of 3.2 percent for the July-to-September period, according to the latest data from S&P Capital IQ. About 60 percent of companies that have reported earnings have beaten analysts' expectations.

"Earnings so far have been excellent," said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust. "Earnings are coming in and beating (expectations) by a penny here and there, and we're very comfortable with that."

Company earnings will likely continue to grow as the outlook for the global economy brightens, as Europe continues to recover from its recession and growth in China picks up, Braakman said.

The continued stimulus for the economy from the Federal Reserve should also help support the economy and corporate earnings. The U.S. central bank is currently buying $85 billion of bonds every month to support the economy.

The government's monthly jobs report for September will be released Tuesday, giving investors more information about the strength of the U.S. economy. The report, which is typically released on the first Friday of every month, was delayed because of the government shutdown.

Economists predict that the U.S. economy added 180,000 jobs in September, according to data provider FactSet. Investors may discount the report though, as it is being published more than two weeks late.

"It's old information, it's not as current as it normally is," said Kate Warne, a market strategist at investment adviser, Edward Jones.

Homebuilders slumped after Americans bought fewer previously occupied homes in September than the previous month, held back by higher mortgage rates and rising prices. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of re-sold homes fell 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million.

KB Home fell 60 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $16.57. D.R. Horton dropped 35 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $18.67.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note edged up to 2.61 percent from 2.58 percent Friday.

In commodities trading, the price of oil dipped below $100 for the first time since early July after a government report showed that U.S. supplies continue to rise. Oil fell $1.59, or 1.6 percent, to $99.22 a barrel. Gold rose $1.20, or 0.1 percent, to $1,315.80 an ounce.

Among stocks making big moves:

— General Electric rose 59 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $26.14 after Citigroup added the company to its U.S. Focus List, citing the company's buyback program and cost-cutting plans among some of the reasons to own the stock.

— Gannett, the media company that owns USA Today, fell 59 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $26.90 after the company reported lower earnings and revenue for the third quarter.

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