US STOCKS-Wall St edges higher, investors look to earnings

Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:55am EDT

Related Topics

* S&P 500 coming off biggest weekly gain since July

* Earnings seen driving trading, dozens of names report this week

* Results from Netflix expected after the market close

* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P 500 up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct (Updates to midday trading)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, April 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose slightly on Monday as investors found few reasons to push indexes sharply higher following a strong rally last week and ahead of key earnings releases.

The S&P 500 posted its best week since July last week, boosted by results from such names as General Electric Co and Morgan Stanley. If the index ends higher, it will be the fifth straight daily rise for the benchmark.

With fewer than one-fifth of S&P 500 companies having reported results so far, about 62 percent have topped earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, compared with the 66 percent average over the past four quarters. About 52 percent have beaten revenue forecasts, about even with the 54 percent average over the past four quarters.

"There have been some strong results from prominent companies, but in general the season has been less than exciting," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

"We're still struggling with top-line growth. Investors are looking at the earnings picture and are not being thrilled, though we're still waiting on a lot of reports this week."

Halliburton Co rose 3.3 percent to $62.91 after the oilfield services company reported earnings that beat expectations and gave a strong profit outlook. The Philadelphia oil service index rose 0.7 percent.

SunTrust Banks rose 2.2 percent to $38.78 after its results, while Hasbro Inc rose 0.7 percent to $55.00 after its earnings beat expectations, though revenue was under forecasts.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 16.56 points, or 0.10 percent, at 16,425.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 3.26 points, or 0.17 percent, at 1,868.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 11.72 points, or 0.29 percent, at 4,107.24.

Investors are looking ahead to results from Netflix Inc after the market closes. The online movie renter was recently a trading favorite, soaring 300 percent last year as the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer. The stock, stung by claims it is overvalued, has slumped recently alongside a broader decline in other high-flying names. Analysts will look to see whether the results justify its still-elevated price.

Dozens of S&P components will report this week, including such closely watched names as Apple Inc, Biogen Idec and Facebook Inc. A number of Dow components, including McDonald's Corp, AT&T Inc, Procter & Gamble and Caterpillar Inc, also report.

More than 30 companies in the Nasdaq 100 are slated to report, according to Nasdaq, a group that together represents more than half of the index's weight.

In company news, Britain's Sunday Times reported that Pfizer Inc had approached AstraZeneca to propose a $101 billion takeover, an offer that was rejected. However, Astra's cancer drug pipeline is still considered a draw for Pfizer. Shares of Dow component Pfizer rose 0.9 percent to $30.52 while U.S. shares of Astra rose 5.8 percent to $67.16.

Talks between Barrick Gold Corp and Newmont Mining Corp about a potential merger have hit a snag, but the companies remain keen to reach a deal and discussions are likely to resume, sources told Reuters.

Shares of Newmont rose 5.8 percent to $24.90 as the S&P's biggest percentage gainer, while U.S. shares of Barrick fell 3.4 percent to $17.37.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

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