BUSINESS

Stocks end mostly higher as company earnings reports pour in

Stocks posted modest gains Tuesday as investors worked through another large batch of earnings reports.

Pharmaceutical stocks rose after drug giant Merck reported better-than-expected results. Twitter plunged nearly 20 percent after its results, which were released early, missed analysts' marks.

Earnings season is at its busiest this week, with more than 150 companies reporting their results, including Apple, Exxon Mobil, Ford and others. So far, earnings have been coming in better than the gloomy expectations analysts had at the beginning of the month.

But with stocks trading at all-time highs, there's little momentum for this market to barrel upward, strategists say.

“This market just feels tired to me,” said Dan Morgan, a fund manager at Synovus Trust.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 72.17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 18,110.14. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.84 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,114.76. The Nasdaq composite edged down 4.82 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,055.42.

Merck rose $2.88, or 5 percent, to $59.88. While the company's profits fell 44 percent from a year ago, the results still handily beat analysts' estimates. Adjusted earnings for the maker of diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet were 85 cents a share versus the 75 cents expected by analysts. Other health care stocks also rose, including Aetna, drugmaker AbbVie and laboratory equipment maker Waters Corp.

The Nasdaq ended lower partly because of Apple, which fell $2.09, or 1.6 percent, to $130.56.

The iPhone and computer and maker reported a record quarterly profit of $13.6 billion, but Apple's outlook was not as rosy as some analysts had predicted. Apple had $193.5 billion in cash on its balance sheet and plans on increasing its dividend and share buyback.

Twitter was the center of some late-day drama when its quarterly results were unexpectedly released before the market closed. Twitter's revenue missed analysts' expectations, sending its shares down $9.39, or 18 percent, to $42.27.

Much of the focus this week will be on the Fed's two-day policy meeting, which ends Wednesday. Policymakers are discussing when the Fed should start raising interest rates again. The Fed opened the door to rate increases after its March meeting, but some recent weak economic data might complicate that picture.

“What we do know is the Fed is going remain accommodative and keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future,” said David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategy at UBS Wealth Management.

Another weak signal on the U.S. economy came out Tuesday. The Conference Board reported that its index of consumer confidence fell to the lowest level in four months as hiring slowed down.

The Conference Board said its index fell to 95.2 in April from 101.4 in March. That was the lowest since 93.1 in December. The survey's measure of how respondents assess current economic conditions fell for the third straight month. Their expectations for the future also fell.

In energy markets, the price of U.S. oil rose slightly while global crude slipped. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 7 cents to close at $57.06 a barrel in New York. Brent crude fell 19 cents to close at $66.64 in London.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange: wholesale gasoline fell 0.7 cent to close at $2.002 a gallon, heating oil fell 0.4 cents to close at $1.917 a gallon and natural gas rose 2.7 cents to close at $2.517 per 1,000 cubic feet.

U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.98 percent from 1.92 percent late Monday.

Precious and industrial metals futures closed mostly higher. Gold rose $10.70 to $1,213.90 an ounce. Silver gained 20 cents to $16.59 an ounce and copper edged up a penny to $2.78 a pound.

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