S&P 500 vaults 1,500 as earnings cheer Wall Street

NEW YORK Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:03am IST

1 of 2. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, January 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index on Friday closed above 1,500 for the first time in more than five years as strong earnings reports, including Procter & Gamble's, helped the benchmark extend its rally to eight days.

The winning streak is the longest in eight years and left the S&P 500 about 4.1 percent away from its all-time closing high of 1,565.15 on October 9, 2007.

The equity market's strong start this year has been attributed to solid corporate results, an agreement in Washington to extend the government's borrowing power, encouraging signs from the global economy and seasonal inflows into stocks.

Procter & Gamble (PG.N) shares led the Dow and S&P higher with a 4 percent gain to $73.25 after the world's top household products maker's quarterly profit soared past expectations. The company also raised its sales and earnings outlook for the fiscal year.

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell in December but rose in 2012 to the highest level since 2009, a sign the U.S. housing market turned a corner last year.

"Economic data in the U.S. has been trending higher, albeit modestly. Things are incrementally better," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

"The market was able to move forward despite deterioration in Apple and that's also a positive."

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 70.65 points or 0.51 percent, to 13,895.98, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 8.14 points or 0.54 percent, to 1,502.96 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 19.33 points or 0.62 percent, to 3,149.71.

The S&P 500 closed at its highest since December 10, 2007 and the Dow ended at its highest since October 31, 2007.

Apple (AAPL.O) shares dropped 2.4 percent to $439.88, and the iPhone maker lost its coveted title as the largest U.S. company by market capitalization to Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N).

Apple's market cap fell to $413 billion, down roughly $250 billion from its September peak. Apple's fall is about equal to the entire value of Google Inc (GOOG.O).

Adding to the bullish tone, German business morale improved for a third consecutive month in January to its highest in more than six months. In addition, European banks said they will repay the European Central Bank much more than expected of the loans the bank gave them during the crisis.

"Good news in credit markets helps set the stage for (more investment in) riskier assets," Krosby said.

For the week, the Dow rose 1.8 percent, the S&P climbed 1.1 percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.5 percent. It was the fourth straight week of gains for all three indexes.

Helping to lift the Nasdaq on Friday, Starbucks (SBUX.O), rose 4.1 percent to $56.81 after the coffee retailer reported stronger-than-expected sales in the United States and Asia. {ID:nL1N0ATH04]

Netflix (NFLX.O) added 15.5 percent to $169.56, following its massive 42.2 percent jump Thursday after it announced a surprise jump in subscribers to its video streaming service.

Thomson Reuters data through Friday showed that of the 147 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 68 percent exceeded expectations. Since 1994, 62 percent of companies have topped expectations, while the average over the past four quarters stands at 65 percent.

Halliburton Co (HAL.N) shares jumped 5.1 percent to $39.72 after the world's second-largest oilfield services company reported higher-than-expected earnings and sales for the fourth quarter.

About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average during January 2012 of about 6.93 billion shares.

On the NYSE, more than three issues rose for every two that fell and on Nasdaq five rose for every four decliners.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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