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Stocks Gain Before the Close


"Actual dough will be made and lost on these two, especially Google," Guilfoyle noted. "The whispers in both cases are higher than the expectation, and many traders are already set up, or taking a pass."

According to Thomson Reuters data, the blended estimate for the fourth quarter, which reflects reported results and analyst expectations, is for year-over-year growth of 2.5% for the S&P 500, up from 0.1% in the third quarter. Thirteen percent of S&P 500 companies have reported so far.

"As a firm we will continue to monitor corporate earnings but don't feel that there are an significant announcements next week that would change our view of the current market conditions," said Paul Pagnato, managing director and partner at HighTower's Pagnato-Karp Group. "We will be paying particular attention to the economic data that will be released."

The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that existing-home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.99 million in November, but still well above year-ago levels. The upward momentum in home prices continued amid limited inventory, according to the NAR.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected existing-home sales to rise to an annual rate of 5.1 million units in December.

"Overall, this report points to some modest relapse in what has otherwise been a steady rebound in housing market activity since the summer months, and the drop in sales may have been due in part to the impact of elevated concerns at the time about the impact of the fiscal cliff," said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities. "Given this, we anticipate that sales activity could rebound in January following the tax deal, given the very supportive buying conditions and the increasing incentive for first-time buyers (who are currently sitting on the fence) to slowly move into the market as prices begin to firm."

The Chicago Federal Reserve's National Activity Index on Tuesday showed a decrease to 0.02 in December from 0.27 in November, indicating a moderation of economic growth last month.

The report also suggested subdued inflationary pressure from economic activity over the coming year.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up by 0.29%, and the Nikkei in Japan finished down 0.35% after the Bank of Japan introduced a widely expected open-ended asset purchase program and set a 2% inflation target.

Geoffrey Yu and Gareth Berry, research analysts at UBS, said that to them the additional easing announced "does not seem commensurate with the challenge ... disappointingly, the BoJ announced its intention to buy only JPY10 trillion worth of assets throughout the whole of 2014. That's over three times slower than the current pace of asset accumulation -- totally inadequate in our view given the enormity of the challenge of generating 2% inflation."