* GM, Ford up after strong Sept. auto sales
* Indexes up : Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct (Updates to late afternoon)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Oct 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, helped by gains in Ford Motor and General Motors after strong September vehicle sales.
Major automakers posted higher U.S. new vehicle sales in September as consumers in hurricane-hit parts of the country rushed to replace flood-damaged cars.
General Motors’ shares rose 3.1 percent and hit a record high, while Ford’s stock was up 2.3 percent at $12.37.
Economically sensitive stocks continued to outperform, with the S&P materials index up 0.3 percent.
“We’re seeing moves into economically sensitive stocks, which is an indication that investors believe some of the favorably economic data that’s coming out,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
At the same time, “investors, for whatever reason, are ignoring some of the things that have scared them” in the recent past, he said, including tensions between the United States and North Korea.
The indexes have been scaling record highs and on Monday found support from factory data that pointed to underlying strength in the U.S. economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 84.39 points, or 0.37 percent, to 22,641.99, the S&P 500 gained 4.37 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,533.49 and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.94 points, or 0.15 percent, to 6,526.66.
Investors are also looking at upcoming quarterly earnings from big names to help justify the lofty market valuations.
Third-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 5.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters research, after rising a stronger-than-expected 12.3 percent in the second quarter.
Lennar Corp’s shares jumped 4.7 percent following a higher-than-expected quarterly profit from the No. 2 U.S. homebuilder. Shares of KB Home were up 0.7 percent.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.14-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.17-to-1 ratio favored advancers. (Additional reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)