Created on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 Written by BERNARD CONDON, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The Standard and Poor's 500 index came within striking distance of its all-time closing high Wednesday as investors bid up stocks of financial and technology companies. Bank stocks rose sharply after Bank of America reported that its profit surged to $3.44 billion in the fourth quarter. Apple was up 2 percent.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 gained seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,846, shortly after 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. That was two points below its closing high on Dec. 31, 2013. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 107 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,481. The Nasdaq composite rose 24 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,207.
BANK EARNINGS: Bank of America climbed 2.4 percent after it reported a jump in earnings. The loans on its balance sheet continue to improve, and the bank's provision for credit losses fell to $336 million, from $2.2 billion in the same period a year earlier. Even its mortgage division, which took huge losses after the housing bubble popped, improved.
TECH SURGE: Apple and Microsoft both rose more than 2 percent.
FASTENAL DROP: The industrial supply company dropped the most in the S&P 500, down 5.3 percent, after reporting that it missed fourth-quarter earnings by a penny. The stock slumped $2.55 to $45.66.
3-D PRINTER TUMBLE: Shares of 3-D printer company ExOne fell $5.79, or 9 percent, to $56.47 after cutting its revenue forecast for the year. The North Huntington, Pa., company cited deferred orders from international customers.
WATCH THOSE REVENUES: After years of squeezing more and more profit out of every dollar of revenue, companies will have to lift that top line to hit their earnings targets for this year, said Joseph S. Tanious, global market strategist at JPMorgan. But he's optimistic. "You will see strong revenue growth," he said. Tanious said a 4 percent to 6 percent increase in S&P 500 earnings per share shouldn't be "too difficult."
WHOLESALE PRICES UP: U.S. wholesale prices increased in December, as gasoline prices rose along with other energy costs. Overall inflation remained mild. The Labor Department said the producer price index, which measures costs before they reach the consumer, rose 0.4 percent last month.
FEAR TRADE EBBS: The Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" survey showed economic growth remained healthy in most regions, helping bolster the belief that the U.S. economy will grow faster in coming months. The report followed one on Tuesday showing strong retail sales during the holiday season.
One result: Investors sold so-called safe-haven Treasurys and gold. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.90 percent from 2.87 percent on Tuesday. Gold fell $7.10, or 0.6 percent, to $1,238.30 an ounce.