US stocks: Dow at new 2009 high, closer to 10,000


NEW YORK: Investors waiting for earnings reports to flow in traded cautiously Monday, giving up early gains and leaving the market narrowly mixed.

The Dow Jones industrials reached a new 2009 trading high, edging closer to 10,000.

Volume was light because of the Columbus Day holiday.

Bond markets were closed and there were no economic reports.

A weaker dollar and a spike in oil prices above $73 drove energy and materials prices higher, but weakness in technology and industrial shares held the market back.

Stocks got an early boost from a better-than-expected profit report from Dutch company Royal Philips Electronics.

That sent Britain's leading stock indicator to its highest level in a year.

Investors looked ahead to the flurry of earnings due this week from key companies including Intel Corp., Johnson & Johnson, IBM Corp. and General Electric Co. Top U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. will issue reports as well.

The Dow traded as high as 9,931, just 69 points away from 10,000, a level not seen in a year. The Dow closed up 20.86, or 0.2 percent, at 9,885.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.70, or 0.4 percent, to 1,076.19. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.14, or 0.01 percent, to 2,139.14. Advancing stocks narrowly outpaced declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 944 million shares compared with 990 million at the same time Friday. In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 1.11 to 613.81.

The Dow closed up 20.86, or 0.2 percent, at 9,885.80.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.70, or 0.4 percent, to 1,076.19.

The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.14, or 0.01 percent, to 2,139.14.

Advancing stocks narrowly outpaced declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 944 million shares compared with 990 million at the same time Friday.

At banks, investors are hoping to see signs that consumer loan defaults, including mortgages, are starting to level off, and will be looking for any potential trouble with commercial real estate loans.

Overall, the market wants to see evidence that an economic recovery is under way.

Analysts said traders are generally optimistic about the coming reports, especially after aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. - the first of the 30 companies that make up the Dow to report earnings - said last week that it turned a profit for the first time in nine months.

"There is some key stuff coming and the market has anticipated that it's going to be good," said John Wilson, chief technical strategist at Morgan Keegan.

The dollar mostly fell against other major currencies, helping to drive commodity prices higher.

A weak dollar makes commodities more attractive to foreign investors.

Gold rose $8.90 to $1,057.50 an ounce, while oil prices rose $1.50 to settle at $73.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar has fallen steadily over the past few months as investors, more upbeat on the economy take money out of traditional safe-haven assets and put it to work in stocks.

The ICE Futures U.S. dollar index, which tracks the dollar against other major currencies, is down about 14 percent since early March.

The S&P 500 index is up 59 percent since then.

Better-than-expected first-quarter results from banks set off the stock market's rally seven months ago, and even stronger second-quarter results helped fortify the rally in July.

Analysts say companies' earnings reports will determine where the market heads next.

If results exceed expectations and show companies are making money through sales and not just cost cutting, stocks could continue their push higher.

"There's still room here for equities to move up on the back of better-than-expected results," said Craig Peckham, an analyst at Jefferies & Co.

"I don't think that positive surprises are fully priced in." - AP

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