US STOCKS-Wall St ticks up on earnings; technicals, conflicts eyed

Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:02am EDT

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By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 hit a record high on Wednesday, lifted by bullish earnings from companies like Apple and Microsoft, though technical resistance and conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip kept gains in check.

The S&P touched a record above 1,989 but the 1,985-1,990 area was developing into technical resistance, analysts said.

News of two Ukrainian fighter jets being downed Wednesday, near the area where a passenger jet was shot down last week, added to caution on markets.

"What we have today is a testing of the (resistance level) on the S&P," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

"With the addition of the fighter jets being downed in Ukraine, people are looking at the market and can't seem to find a way to break through."

Hogan said higher-than-average revenue beats by companies that have reported so far this quarter pointed to a stronger economy.

About 64.3 percent of S&P 500 components have reported revenue exceeding analyst expectations, above the 61 percent beat rate since 2002 and 55 percent over the past four quarters.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.32 points, or 0.04 percent, to 17,106.22, the S&P 500 gained 5.1 points or 0.26 percent, to 1,988.63 and the Nasdaq Composite added 21.89 points or 0.49 percent, to 4,477.90.

Apple shares jumped 2.8 percent to $97.37 even as it reported a smaller-than-expected 6 percent rise in quarterly revenue Tuesday. Sales surged 28 percent in greater China despite stiff competition in its third-largest market.

Microsoft shares rose 1 percent to $45.26 a day after it said it aimed to get its loss-making Nokia phone unit to break even within two years.

Boeing reversed a premarket gain and fell 2.2 percent to $126.86 even as it reported a 52 percent jump in quarterly profit on higher commercial aircraft deliveries. Boeing was the heaviest drag on the Dow industrials.

PepsiCo rose 3.3 percent to $92.07 after it reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year adjusted earnings forecast.

Biogen Idec reported sharply higher-than-expected quarterly revenue on surging sales of its new treatment for multiple sclerosis and raised its full-year profit forecast. Shares were up 10.9 percent at $336.93.

Intuitive Surgical rose 13.4 percent to $444.75 a day after reporting second-quarter earnings that were better than its dismal first quarter, though it was still its fifth straight quarterly decline.

Puma Biotechnology shares soared 264 percent to $214.95 a day after it said its experimental breast cancer drug met its main goal in a late-stage trial.

In a blow to Israel's economy, U.S. and European air carriers halted flights to Tel Aviv, citing concern over a militant rocket from Gaza that hit a house near the city's airport. Israel urged reconsideration of the decision, saying its air space was safe.

In Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels have shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets not far from where a Malaysian passenger jet was brought down in eastern Ukraine, a spokesman for Ukraine's military operations said Wednesday.

The first bodies of victims from the downed Malaysian airliner arrived in Eindhoven. Many of the 298 deceased were Dutch. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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