Wall St closes higher; Nasdaq up

Business Times

NEW YORK: US stocks closed higher on Thursday, with the Nasdaq rising for a sixth straight day, as investors looked past disappointing data on consumer spending, chalking the weakness up to weather instead of weaker fundamentals.

The Nasdaq is up about 5.7 per cent over the past six sessions, its best six-day advance since December 2011. Both the Dow and SandP 500 rose for the fifth session out of the last six.

Indexes opened lower but gained throughout the session, although Cisco Systems, which sank after warning about a slump in revenue, limited the Dow's advance.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week while January retail sales fell and December retail sales were revised lower.

"Investors have restored some enthusiasm for equities that was lost in the first few weeks of the year, and with weather seeming to be such a factor, they're able to shrug this off," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

Dow component Cisco fell 2.5 per cent to US$22.27 as one of the biggest drags on all three major US indexes. The network-gear maker forecast a sic to eight per cent drop in revenue in the current quarter.

"Cisco has been having problems with competition, so I don't view that as indicative of tech in the aggregate or consumer spending," said Luschini, who helps oversee US$63 billion in assets. "This is company-specific, which is allowing other tech to shrug off that outlook."

The SandP tech sector rose 0.9 per cent, boosted by Facebook Inc and SanDisk Corp.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 63.65 points, or 0.40 per cent, at 16,027.59. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index was up 10.57 points, or 0.58 per cent, at 1,829.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 39.38 points, or 0.94 per cent, at 4,240.67.

Comcast Corp said it would buy Time Warner Cable Inc for US$45.2 billion in an all-stock deal that combines the two largest US cable operators.

Time Warner Cable shares rose seven per cent to US$144.81 while Comcast shed 4.1 per cent to US$52.97. Shares of Charter Communications Inc, which had also pursued Time Warner Cable, fell 6.3 per cent to US$128.91.

A deadly winter storm moved north along the East Coast of the United States on Thursday, bringing heavy snow, sleet and rain across the Washington DC, and New York areas, grounding flights and shutting government offices.

A scheduled US Senate hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday was postponed due to the snow. Yellen's testimony Tuesday helped fuel strong gains on Wall Street.

Whole Foods Market Inc lost 7.2 per cent to US$51.46. The largest US organic and natural food retailer stunned investors on Wednesday by cutting its 2014 sales forecast for the second time in three months.

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co surged 11.5 per cent to US$26.94 it posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday and said it had fully funded its hourly US pension plan.

Of the 382 companies in the SandP 500 that reported earnings through Thursday morning, 67.5 per cent beat profit expectations, above the 63 per cent average since 1994 and slightly above the 67 per cent rate for the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data.

After the market closed, American International Group Inc rose 3.2 per cent after it reported results and raised its dividend. Brocade Communications shares jumped 7.7 per cent after the bell.

Avon Products Inc shed 2.9 per cent to US$14.62. The beauty products company said it may pay as much as US$132 million to settle a US bribery investigation into its efforts to develop new markets overseas.

About 5.96 billion shares traded on all US platforms, according to BATS exchange data. About 70 per cent of companies traded on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq closed higher.-- Reuters