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Stocks Gain Before the Close


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages pushed above the flatline late Tuesday as investors digested a handful of earnings reports and economic data, and looked to results from search giant Google(GOOG) .

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 62 points, or 0.46%, at 13,712. The blue-chip index remained on pace for its biggest monthly gain since October 2011.

"Notwithstanding some of the negatives, investors have continued to bid stocks higher in recent weeks," Russ Koesterich, BlackRock's global chief investment strategist, said in a client note.

Koesterich said that U.S. equities are up around 4% so far for the year, as are markets in Europe and much of Asia. He said that some of this can be attributed to temporary enthusiasm and seasonal strength "and we do expect stocks to experience tougher going in February."

That said, a continuation of 2% economic growth combined with low inflation is "not a bad environment for stocks."

Koesterich said that equity valuations remain reasonable, particularly outside the U.S., so "we would view any near-term volatility as a potential buying opportunity."

Breadth was positive as winners were edging losers 22 to eight. The biggest percentage decliners on the Dow were Cisco(CSCO) , Boeing(BA) , Coca-Cola(KO) , American Express (AXP) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) .

Boeing shares slid 1.2% on ongoing 787 aircraft safety concerns. Japanese and U.S. investigators have begun an investigation into the maker of the lithium-ion batteries used in Boeing's grounded 787 jets, The Associated Press reported.

Caterpillar (CAT) shares increased 0.10% after the heavy machinery maker said it would take a $580 million fourth-quarter charge due to accounting misconduct at its recently acquired company Siwei.

Johnson & Johnson reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.19 a share on revenue of $17.6 billion, compared with the average analyst estimate of earnings of $1.17 a share on revenue of $17.7 billion, as worldwide consumer sales fell 2.9%. Overall, domestic sales and international sales declined amid negative currency effects. The company announced full-year earnings guidance of $5.35 to $5.45 a share. Analysts are forecasting full-year earnings of $5.49 a share. Shares were off 0.74%.

Top Dow gainers included Travelers(TRV) , UnitedHealth(UNH) , Bank of America (BAC) and Alcoa(AA) .

Property insurer Travelers recorded fourth-quarter net income of $304 million, or 78 cents a share, a sharp decline from $618 million, or $1.51 a diluted share, in the prior year due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Operating income was 72 cents a share versus the average analyst estimate of 14 cents a share. Shares closed up 2.2%.

Verizon (VZ) reported fourth-quarter earnings of 38 cents a share on revenue of more than $30 billion, compared with the average analyst estimate of earnings of 50 cents a share on revenue of $29.83 billion. Including the impact of pension items and charges connected to super storm Sandy, which offset growth in its wireless business, Verizon suffered a loss of $1.48 a share in the quarter. Shares added 0.94%.