Some of Wall Street's earnings anxiety is easing — at least for the time being.
The market had its second straight moderate advance Tuesday, rising after companies including United States Steel Corp. and American Express Co. managed to post profits in a difficult recession. Financial stocks that were mostly higher also lent support to the market.
The major indexes briefly stumbled after the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index in January slipped to its lowest level since the reading's inception in 1967. The report indicated that consumers, who have already cut back drastically, are likely to remain reluctant to spend in the coming months. The index from the private research group slipped to 37.7 in January from a revised 38.6 in December.
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But profit reports from U.S. Steel and American Express as well as chip-maker Texas Instruments Inc. and movie rental company Netflix Inc. reassured investors that while the fourth quarter was generally terrible for companies, it wasn't the disaster many had feared — some companies are still able to make money despite the worst recession in decades.
"Remember, things have been so ugly for so long now that it doesn't take a lot to have a positive surprise," said Jim King, chief investment officer at National Penn Investors Trust Co. in Reading, Pa. He said some companies are putting up weak results but the numbers can still look respectable when compared with a year-earlier.
He expects the market's gyrations will continue as investors react to the latest corporate earnings reports and forecasts.
"The volatility is not done," King said. "You're seeing a lot of varying results from corporations."
Indeed, investors sold shares of Delta Air Lines Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. after their results disappointed Wall Street.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 58.70, or 0.72 percent, to 8,174.73.
Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.14, or 1.09 percent, to 845.71, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 15.44, or 1.04 percent, to 1,504.90.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 5.52, or 1.23 percent, to 455.58.
Advancing issues outnumbered losers by 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.17 billion shares.
Stocks rose moderately Monday after the National Association of Realtors said existing homes rose rather than fell in December, as had been expected. The report raised hopes that lower prices and falling interest rates are starting to erase a glut of homes that are for sale.