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Markets inch up on mining companies' fortunes

By STEVE ROTHWELL The Associated Press Published: July 22, 2013 0

NEW YORK - 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 Corp. fell after its results missed expectations and it warned of a tough year ahead. Media company Gannett dropped after its revenue 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 fewer soft drinks 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. 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 plunged last month because investors thought the Federal Reserve was close to ending its economic stimulus. That pushed up interest rates. And when rates rise, it costs investors more to hang onto gold, which pays no interest.

But with the Fed now willing to continue the stimulus, rates are falling.

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 earnings for the quarter so far. They are expected to report average earnings growth of 23 percent. Bank of America added 17 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $14.92.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 1.8 points, or 0.01 percent, to 15,545.55. The slump in McDonald's stock 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 following a tough June. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spooked investors on June 19, when he seemed to signal that the Fed's tapering of bond purchases would start later this year. Then, after a couple of weeks of panic in stock and bond markets, Bernanke dialed things back on July 10. That's when he told the National Bureau of Economic Research, in a speech in Cambridge, Mass., that the economy still needed help from the Fed's low rates.

The S&P 500 has gained 5.6 percent in July. The market last did better than 5.6 percent in 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.

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

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