Earnings reports buoy stocks

Avon, Michael Kors surge on strong reports


NEW YORK — Stocks edged higher in midday trading today following mixed earnings reports from companies including Avon, Goodyear and Coca-Cola.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33 points to 14,004 by noon EST. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up one point at 1,518. The Nasdaq composite was down five at 3,187.

Avon, a direct seller of beauty products, jumped $3.38, or 20 percent, to $20.66 after the company posted a fourth-quarter loss that wasn't as bad as analysts had expected. Avon also hopes to save $400 million by slashing costs. Michael Kors, a luxury clothing and accessories seller, rose $5.40, or 10 percent, to $62.40 after reporting earnings that beat analysts’ predictions.

Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage company, fell $1.17 to $37.45 after reporting fourth-quarter revenue that fell short of analysts’ forecasts. Goodyear Tire & Rubber sank 21 cents, or 1.5 percent to $13.70 after the company cut its forecast for full-year earnings, blaming weakness in the European economy.

About 70 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings for the fourth quarter. Analysts are projecting that earnings will rise 6.4 percent for the period, an improvement from the 2.4 percent growth reported in the third quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ.

A start-of-the-year rally that pushed indexes close to record highs has slowed down. The S&P 500 is up 1.4 percent this month, following a 5 percent gain in January. The Dow has advanced 1 percent in February, after surging 5.8 percent a month earlier, logging its best January in almost two decades.

Investors may have become too optimistic about the outlook for stocks, said Uri Landesman, president of hedge fund Platinum Partners.

“The market is priced for perfection,” said Landesman. “The odds of a disappointment are very, very high.”

Landesman predicts that the S&P 500 will climb past its record and rise as high as 1,600 by April before then slumping as low as 1,300 as company earnings start to disappoint investors. The record close for the S&P 500 is 1,565, reached in October 2007.

Stock advanced at the start of the year after lawmakers reached a last-minute deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of sweeping tax increases and spending cuts. Investors are also becoming more optimistic that the housing market is recovering and that hiring is picking up.

Investors will be watching closely later today when President Obama delivers his annual State of the Union speech. Obama is expected to focus on the economy, including job creation.

Investors appear to be supporting the market by stepping in to buy stocks when prices dip, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TDAmeritrade. The S&P 500 has gained for six straight weeks since the start of the year.

Confidence in the outlook for global growth has strengthened among asset managers in recent months, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey. The poll found that 59 percent of investors believe that the global economy will strengthen in the year ahead, in line with the reading in January. The outlook for growth had improved in the four previous months.

A decline in bond prices since the beginning of the year has also slowed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, rose 2 basis points to 1.97 percent. The yield was 1.71 percent at the beginning of the year.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— Masco jumped $2.57, or 14 percent, to $20.36 after the home improvement and building products company reported earnings that beat analysts’ expectations thanks to strong demand in North America.

— Dun & Bradstreet, a provider of credit and business data, fell $5.46, or 6.4 percent, to $79.81 after the company reported that a fourth-quarter profit that came in below market expectations.