S&P 500 edges higher, helped by gold miners

Specialists Christopher Gildea, left, and Joseph Dreyer, confer at their posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, July 22, 2013. The stock market edged higher as a big week of earnings kicked off Monday, with mixed results from a handful of large U.S. companies. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Specialists Christopher Gildea, left, and Joseph Dreyer, confer at their posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, July 22, 2013. The stock market edged higher as a big week of earnings kicked off Monday, with mixed results from a handful of large U.S. companies. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

— Mining companies and banks helped the stock market overcome some disappointing quarterly performances on Monday.

Poor second-quarter results from a handful of large U.S. companies weighed on stocks. McDonald's fell after it reported lower global sales and warned of a tough year ahead. Media company Gannett dropped after its revenues fell short of financial analysts' expectations.

But gold and copper prices boosted mining companies, and that helped nudge the market to another all-time high.

Investors are looking ahead a busy week of corporate earnings. More than 150 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index are reporting quarterly earnings over the next four days.

For the most part, corporations have reported results that have beaten analysts' expectations, though there have been some big letdowns. On Friday, Microsoft plunged after it reported declining revenue and a big write-off on its new tablet computer. Coca-Cola slumped last Tuesday after the company said it sold less soda in North America.

"Earnings are not stellar," said Brad Reynolds, chief investment officer at investment adviser LJPR. "It just seems that the market is ok with that."

Investors were more than OK with gold Monday. Its price climbed above $1,300 for first time in a month, giving mining stocks a big lift.

Gold gained $43.10, or 3.3 percent, to $1,336 an ounce, its biggest gain in more than a year. Copper rose 4 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $3.19 per pound.

Among mining companies, Newmont Mining rose $1.66, or 5.8 percent, to $30.35. Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold gained 59 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $29.15.

Gold had plunged earlier in the year because investors thought the Federal Reserve was close to ending its economic stimulus. Gold is now advancing on speculation that the Fed could continue the stimulus for longer than previously thought. That increases the chance of higher inflation and weakens the dollar. When the dollar falls, gold becomes more attractive as an alternative investment.

The S&P 500 index rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,695.53 on Monday. The index is at an all-time high, though trading volumes were lower than average.

Five of the 10 industry group in the S&P 500 rose. Gains were led by financial companies, which have posted some of the strongest earning reports for the quarter so far, and are expected to report average earnings growth of 23 percent for the period. Bank of America added 17 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $14.92.

The Dow Jones industrial rose nearly 1.8 points, or 0.01 percent, to 15,545.55. McDonald's slump weighed on the index. The restaurant chain's stock fell $2.69, or 2.7 percent, to $97.58.

The Nasdaq composite climbed 12.77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,600.39.

One sector that struggled was homebuilders. Sales of previously occupied homes slipped in June to an annual rate of 5.08 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

As a result, Pulte Group fell 22 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $19.14. Lennar fell 73 cents, or 2.1 percent to $34.80.

The stock market has surged in July after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke assured investors that the U.S. central bank would not pull back on its stimulus before the economy was strong enough. The Fed is buying $85 billion of bonds each month to keep long-term interest rates low and to encourage spending.

The S&P 500 has gained 5.6 percent in July. That puts the index on track for it best month since October 2011.

Small company stocks have fared even better. The Russell 2000 closed above 1,000 for the first time on July 5 and is up 7.8 percent for the month. That signals that investors have become more comfortable buying riskier assets.

In commodities trading, the price of oil fell 93 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $106.94 a barrel.

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from Friday at 2.48 percent. As recently as July 5, the yield was as high as 2.74 percent.

As of Monday, 63 percent of the companies that have reported earnings have exceeded expectations. That's above the historical average.

S&P 500 companies are forecast to report earnings growth of 3.6 percent for the second quarter compared with a year earlier, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.

Analysts expect earnings growth to climb to 5.63 percent in the third quarter and 11.12 percent in the fourth quarter.

Those forecasts may prove optimistic if economic growth doesn't accelerate in the second half of the year, said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial.

"I'm a little suspect that we're going to see double digit (earnings) growth," said Sheldon. "We're more likely in a period of moderate to sluggish growth."

Among other stocks making big moves.

— Hasbro Inc.'s stock rose $1.49, or 3.3 percent, to $46.87. The nation's second biggest toy maker said Monday that it is expanding a merchandising deal with The Walt Disney Co. for properties including Marvel and Star Wars.

— Yahoo fell $1.25, or 4.3 percent, to $27.86. The company said Monday that activist investor Dan Loeb and two other directors nominated by his hedge fund, Third Point LLC, are leaving Yahoo's board after big gains in the company's stock price the past year.

— Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex tissue and Huggies diapers, fell $1.81, or 1.8 percent, to $97.68. The company on Monday reported revenue that fell short of financial analyst's expectations.

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