New York: The S&P 500 closed at a 29-month high on Wednesday led by gains in tech and commodity shares, as investors largely ignored the US Federal Reserve’s lukewarm economic assessment.
The stock market had little reaction to the Fed, which said high unemployment still justifies a $600 billion bond-buying program that has helped equities rally in the last few months.
Strong earnings continue to support further gains in stocks. The technology sector was led higher by network equipment maker Juniper Networks, whose quarterly sales beat Wall Street’s expectations. Shares rose 6.4% to $37.05.
“We seem to have gone back to focusing on the basics -- the economy and the earnings. Earnings are coming in good and the economy is taking baby steps forward,” supporting the stock market, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago.
“The technology sector especially is the leading sector in the broad market and its performance is impacting the rest of the market.”
Commodity shares got a boost after Allegheny Technologies Inc forecast stronger sales in 2011, helped by higher base prices for metals. The stock surged 11.8% to $65.29.
The S&P materials sector index rose 2.1%.
The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 8.25 points, or 0.07%, to end at 11,985.44. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 5.45 points, or 0.42%, to 1,296.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 20.25 points, or 0.74%, to 2,739.50.
The Dow rose above the psychologically important 12,000 for the first time since June 2008, but ended slightly lower as the 30-stock average was held in check by Boeing Co.
Boeing shares fell 3.1% to $70.02 after the US plane maker posted a drop in quarterly profit and offered a disappointing forecast.
Thomson Reuters’ latest data showed 69% of the 144 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far have exceeded estimates.
The S&P 500 index continues to show overbought readings in various short-term technical indicators after last week’s decline released some selling pressure.
Short-term support kicks in at 1,284, its 14-day moving average, while the 1,300-1,305 area, which are closing highs reached in August 2008, could result in resistance.
Fortinet shares jumped 16.9% to $39.65 a day after the network security systems provider reported market-beating quarterly results.
Qualcomm up late, Starbucks drops
After the bell, Qualcomm Inc shares jumped 4.3% to $54.11 after the company raised its forecast for 2011 revenue and prediceted robust second-quarter revenue.
But Starbucks Corp shares slid 2% to $32.40 in extended trade after the copmany forecast full-year earnings below analysts’ expectations due to rising coffee prices.
The Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index, which tracks 19 commodities, including coffee, rose 1.6% for the day.
Late on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama’s call for a lower corporate tax rate also supported equities, as any move in that direction is seen as a boost to profits.
In the latest economic data, new US single-family home sales rose in December to their highest level in eight months. The PHLX housing index advanced 1.2%, with Hovnanian Enterprises Inc adding 7.6% to $4.80.
Trading volume was 8.10 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, down from last year’s estimated daily average of 8.47 billion shares.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 7 to 3. On the Nasdaq, about 20 stocks rose for every seven that fell.