By Angela Moon
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Tuesday following better-than-expected earnings from Merck & Co and Sprint Corp.
The Dow Jones industrial average outperformed the broader market as component Merck & Co's shares jumped nearly 3 percent to $58.31 after its earnings report. Britain's Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc confirmed talks to buy Merck's consumer health business, the latest asset up for grabs in a wave of recent pharmaceutical deals.
On the S&P, energy and financial stocks were among the top gainers, with the energy sector up 1.2 percent and the financial sector up 0.6 percent.
Sprint Corp shares jumped more than 10 percent to $8.18 after the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider reported an increase in quarterly revenue, as expected, due to a new billing plan that lowered wireless expenses.
But Coach Inc reported a sharp drop in North American sales as the upscale leather goods maker continued to lose ground to fast-growing rivals in the U.S. handbags market. The stock slumped more than 8.5 percent to $46.15 and weighed on the S&P retail sector which fell 0.2 percent.
Archer Daniels Midland Co shares fell 3.4 percent to $42.87 after its first-quarter profit and sales missed Wall Street estimates.
Twitter is due to report after the market closes Tuesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.85 points or 0.46 percent, to 16,523.59, the S&P 500 gained 7.13 points, or 0.38 percent, to 1,876.56 and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.691 points, or 0.46 percent, to 4,093.092.
"The market has grown more volatile, in a sense that it reacts more to daily news like the earnings. In general, the market is trying to figure out a level that investors are comfortable with and that is why we are seeing big daily swings recently," said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The Fed starts a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday and is expected to again scale back its monthly bond purchase program and provide guidance on when it might raise interest rates.
Data showed U.S. consumer confidence dipped in April but remained near a six-year high, while home prices rose in February, suggesting the economy continued to gain momentum after a winter lull.
The Conference Board said its index of consumer attitudes dipped to 82.3, the second-highest reading since January 2008, from an upwardly revised 83.9 in March.
"While the news is hardly a harbinger of gloom, the critical employment measures hidden within the report show little evidence that the labor market is on the cusp of a boom anytime soon," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)