US STOCKS-Wall St gains on Fed hopes, rise in homebuilder stocks

Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:51pm EDT

* Ford rallies after results; AT&T, Dow Chemical lower

* PulteGroup, other homebuilder stocks gain

* Federal Reserve seen keeping stimulus for several months

* Indexes up: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.6 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks resumed their upward move on Thursday as economic data underscored views U.S. monetary stimulus will be in place for the foreseeable future and as earnings offered some upbeat news.

Shares of PulteGroup Inc jumped after the homebuilder reported results and said a slowdown in new home orders would be "short-lived." Its shares jumped 7 percent to $17.85 and were the biggest percentage gainer on the S&P 500, while shares of D.R. Horton Inc rose 2.1 percent to $19.87 and Beazer Homes Inc added 1.5 percent to $19.41.

Economic data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell less than expected in the latest week, though analysts noted a backlog of applications in California. On Tuesday, data showed that employers added fewer jobs than expected in September.

The day's data also included a preliminary look at Markit's October Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index, which grew at its slowest pace in a year while factory output contracted for the first time since late 2009.

Expectations the Fed will continue its stimulus have helped stocks all year, with the index up 22.8 percent so far for 2013.

The S&P 500 declined on Wednesday, ending its four-session streak of record high finishes. Last week's legislation to avoid a debt default and end a partial government shutdown gave way to a relief rally and speculation that the Federal Reserve will delay scaling back its stimulus for several months.

"You've got this underlying liquidity surge that's propping prices up, and earnings season hasn't been poor," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 95.88 points, or 0.62 percent, at 15,509.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 5.69 points, or 0.33 percent, at 1,752.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 21.89 points, or 0.56 percent, at 3,928.96.

Also after the bell, Twitter said it intends to sell 70 million shares priced between $17 and $20 in an initial public offering that will value the company at as much as $10.9 billion.

Ford shares rose 1.4 percent to $17.76 after the automaker boosted its full-year global earnings and margin outlook, helped by an improved forecast in Europe and better-than-expected third quarter results.

Also on the rise were Apple shares, up 1.3 percent at $531.91, after investor Carl Icahn, in a public letter to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, called on Apple to commence a $150 billion share buyback immediately.

Third-quarter earnings overall has had its disappointments, including some weak outlooks and just 53 percent of companies so far beating analysts' revenue expectations, below the long-term average, according to Thomson Reuters data.

About 68 percent of companies are beating analysts' earnings expectations, above the 63 percent long-term average.

Among the day's decliners were Dow Chemical Co, Xerox Corp <XRX.N< and AT&T Inc, which all fell following results and outlooks.

AT&T, a Dow component, fell 1.8 percent to $34.63 while Dow Chemical lost 1 percent to $40.62. and Xerox slumped 10.4 percent to $9.61 after a weak outlook.

Shares of Symantec Corp dropped 12.7 percent to $21.49 after it reported lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue and forecast current-quarter results below expectations.

After the bell, shares of Amazon.com rose 4.2 percent to $346 percent following the release of its results.

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