US STOCKS-Banks, commodity stocks lift S&P 500 to 5-year high

Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:49pm EST

* Blue chips: Travelers up after results, J&J slips

* RIM shares rally on possible strategic alliances

* Google, IBM shares rise after the bell

* Dow up 0.5 pct, S&P 500 up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Bank and commodity shares led the Standard & Poor's 500 to a fresh five-year closing high on Tuesday on hopes that the global economy continues to mend.

The Dow Jones industrial average also ended at a five-year high, buoyed by an advance in Travelers' shares after the insurer's earnings.

The market also gained on signals that Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives aim on Wednesday to pass a nearly four-month extension of the U.S. debt limit. The White House welcomed the move, saying it defuses fears of a U.S. default on its debt.

Investors, however, were cautious ahead of an increase in earnings reports and as the S&P 500 rose for a fifth straight day.

Jack de Gan, chief investment officer of Harbor Advisory Corp, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said better economic numbers in the United States and China, as well as more stabilization in Europe, were driving buyers into sectors associated with economic growth.

"Any (bearish) news could turn us down for a day or so," he said, referring to the recent string of gains.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold led gains in the materials sector after it reported a 16 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on higher production. Shares gained 4.6 percent to $35.19.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62.51 points, or 0.46 percent, to 13,712.21 at the close. The S&P 500 gained 6.58 points, or 0.44 percent, to 1,492.56. The Nasdaq Composite added 8.47 points or 0.27 percent, to 3,143.18.

Signs of improved sentiment toward world growth were seen in European bond markets. The yield on Portugal's benchmark 10-year note fell below 6 percent for the first time since late 2010 on news that the country was set to tap the bond market this week for the first time since it was bailed out in 2011.

Technology shares underperformed as concerns about Apple's ability to continue to grow at hyper speed and a weak outlook from Intel Corp diminished optimism about the sector's prospects. The S&P technology index added 0.16 percent, compared with 0.9 percent gains in energy, financials and basic materials.

In extended-hours trading, Google shares rose 4.5 percent to above $734 after the world's No. 1 search engine reported a jump in fourth-quarter revenue, while IBM added more than 3 percent to trade above $200 after the world's largest technology services company reported earnings and revenue that beat estimates.

During the regular session, shares of blue chips Travelers , DuPont, and Verizon Communications rose following earnings

Travelers rose 2.2 percent to $77.95, a closing high. DuPont's shares gained 1.8 percent to $47.82 and Verizon's stock rose 0.9 percent to $42.94.

Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday morning showed that of the 74 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far, 62.2 percent have topped expectations, roughly even with the 62 percent average since 1994, but below the 65 percent average over the past four quarters.

Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter earnings are forecast to have risen 2.6 percent. That estimate is above the 1.9 percent forecast from the start of earnings season, but well below the 9.9 percent fourth-quarter earnings forecast from Oct. 1, the data showed.

U.S.-listed shares of Research in Motion rallied 13 percent to $17.90 a day after its chief executive said the Canadian company may consider strategic alliances with other companies after the launch of devices powered by RIM's new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below last year's daily average of about 6.45 billion shares.

On the NYSE, advancers outnumbered decliners by a ratio of roughly 7 to 3. On the Nasdaq, five stocks rose for every three that fell.

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