* Alcoa higher after earnings
* Fed minutes on tap at 2 p.m. ET
* Intuitive Surgical slumps after outlook
* Indexes up: Dow 0.29 pct, S&P 0.26 pct, Nasdaq 0.64 pct
(Updates to open; adds quote, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, April 9 U.S. stocks edged higher on
Wednesday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a second straight
advance, in the wake of earnings from Alcoa and ahead of the
minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting.
Alcoa Inc gained 4.5 percent to $13.09 as the best
performer on the S&P 500 after it reported a decline in first
quarter adjusted profit, but earnings came in ahead of analysts'
U.S. stocks had advanced in the prior session to snap a
three-day losing streak as investors bought beaten-down social
media and Internet shares.
Despite the three-day selloff, the benchmark S&P 500 index
managed to hold above its 50-day moving average around
1,840, a key support level. The index has successfully defended
the 1,840 area several times over the past month.
"These kind of consolidation rallies really take time to
shake out the emotion that goes with both sides," said Rick
Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital
Management in Jersey City, New Jersey. "Earnings will really
help give this market some forward direction but they are in
front of us and haven't really hit yet."
S&P 500 companies' first-quarter earnings are projected to
have increased just 1 percent from a year ago, Thomson Reuters
data showed. The forecast is down sharply from the start of the
year, when profit growth was estimated at 6.5 percent.
The Fed is expected to release the minutes from its March
18-19 meeting at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). The Fed needs to be more
specific about what economic conditions would prompt it to raise
interest rates from current rock-bottom levels, a pair of top
Fed officials normally at odds on policy said on Tuesday.
Earnings season gets under way this week, with results due
from retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond after the close, while
financials JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co
close out the week with results on Friday.
Investors will be looking at the impact of harsh winter
weather on first-quarter earnings, and signs of optimism for the
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.53 points or
0.29 percent, to 16,302.67, the S&P 500 gained 4.82
points or 0.26 percent, to 1,856.78 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 26.234 points or 0.64 percent, to 4,139.221.
U.S. wholesale inventories rose at a slower 0.5 percent pace
in February, in line with expectations, after a revised 0.8
percent gain in January, which could support views that
restocking will not help the economy in the first quarter.
General Motors Co shares lost 1.8 percent to $33.90.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the
automaker is being fined $7,000 a day for missing an April 3
deadline to provide information about its recall of 2.6 million
cars for defective ignition switches. Morgan Stanley
subsequently cut the stock to an "underweight" rating.
Intuitive Surgical Inc estimated first-quarter
revenue well below analysts' average expectation, mainly due to
a 60 percent drop in sales of its flagship da Vinci robot
system. Its shares slumped 7.3 percent to $454.04. The PHLX
medical device index lost 0.9 percent.
Constant Contact Inc surged 27.8 percent to $28.02
after the online marketer said it expects quarterly revenue to
rise by more than 15 percent.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)