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Stocks rise; S&P 500 finishes its seventh straight month of gains

U.S. stocks inched ahead Tuesday after the makers of Kellogg's cereal and Oreo cookies joined the parade of companies reporting stronger profits than expected.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.43 points, or 0.1%, to 2,575.26, the latest tick higher in this year's remarkably smooth ride. The index finished October with its seventh straight month of gains, the longest such streak in more than four years.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 28.50, or 0.1%, to 23,377.24, and the Nasdaq composite rose 28.71, or 0.4%, to 6,727.67, a new record. Smaller stocks did better than the rest of the market; the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks climbed 11.64, or 0.8%, to 1,502.53.

Food companies helped lead the market higher. Kellogg jumped 6.2% to $62.53 and Mondelez International climbed 5.4% to $41.43 after each reported stronger results for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

“It's been a fantastic earnings season,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “People talk about taxes, low interest rates and all these other things, but what really drives the market is earnings.”

More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have reported their results for the July-through-September quarter, and most have topped Wall Street's forecasts. Several big names are still on the docket for this week, with Facebook set to report on Wednesday and Apple on Thursday.

Rockwell Automation surged 7.4% to $200.82 — the biggest gain in the S&P 500 — after it received a buyout bid worth $215 per share in cash and stock. The company said it rejected the unsolicited bid from Emerson Electric on Oct. 10.

Under Armour, meanwhile, recorded the largest loss in the S&P 500 after it said demand for its sporting gear in North America weakened last quarter and cut its forecast for earnings this year. Its Class A shares plunged 23.7% to $12.52.

Nautilus dropped 20.2% to $13 after the maker of fitness products cut its forecasts as sales of its TreadClimber device continued to decline. AK Steel Holding dived 21.5% to $4.59 after the steelmaker said weak results from the automotive market hurt its business in the third quarter.

Besides earnings, investors are facing a deluge of other events that could be headliners.

Several of the world's largest central banks are meeting this week, and the Bank of Japan decided Tuesday to keep its interest rates at ultra-low levels. The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates Thursday, which would be the first increase in a decade. And the Federal Reserve will wrap up a two-day meeting Wednesday, though most economists expect it to wait until its December gathering to raise rates for the third time this year.

More attention is on President Trump's choice for the next Fed chair. He is expected to make the announcement Thursday, and the leading candidate appears to be Jerome “Jay” Powell, who is already a member of the Fed's board.

Investors are also waiting to hear details about Washington's attempts to cut income-tax rates. A cut would help boost profits for companies, and stocks of smaller companies in particular have been rising and falling in sync with expectations for an overhaul of the tax system.

At the end of the week, the U.S. government will unveil the month's most anticipated economic data, its jobs report. Economists expect to see continued strength in hiring.

Bond yields held steady Tuesday as prices for Treasurys were close to flat. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note stayed at 2.37%, and the two-year yield rose to 1.60% from 1.58%. The 30-year yield slipped to 2.87% from 2.88%.

The dollar inched up to 113.71 yen from 113.18. The euro ticked up to $1.1651 from $1.1637, and the British pound rose to $1.3282 from $1.3199.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 23 cents to settle at $54.38 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 47 cents to $61.37 a barrel.

Natural gas fell 7 cents to $2.90 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil was close to flat at $1.88 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.78 a gallon.

Gold fell $7.20 to $1,270.50 an ounce. Silver fell 15 cents to $16.69 an ounce. Copper fell a penny to $3.10 a pound.

In overseas stock markets, the French CAC 40 rose 0.2%, and the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.1%. Japan's Nikkei 225 index was virtually flat, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.3%, and South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.9%.


UPDATES:

2 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

This article was originally published at 8:10 a.m.

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