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Strong company earnings drive US stock indexes to new highs

Strong company earnings drive US stock indexes to new highs

Strong company earnings put investors in a buying mood Thursday, lifting the major U.S. stock indexes to record highs.

Banks and other financial companies led the rally as bond yields rose. Energy also notched big gains as crude oil prices rose. Utilities and materials lagged the broader market.

Traders have been focused in recent weeks on companies reporting their quarterly results as they size up Corporate America's prospects for growth. They're also keeping an eye on Washington D.C. to gauge whether the Trump administration will deliver on expectations of business-friendly policies that helped drive a market rally last fall.

"You're definitely seeing a kind of risk-on (trade) right now, with the fear of missing out overshadowing the fear of a policy mistake," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Financial. "You're seeing a recovery in corporate profits, and that's definitely giving investors some extra confidence."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 118.06 points, or 0.6 percent, to 20,172.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 13.20 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,307.87. The Nasdaq composite index added 32.73 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,715.18. The Nasdaq has now set a record high three times this week, in addition to last Friday.

The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks outpaced the rest of the market. It climbed 19.79 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,378.53.

About 61 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 reported earnings as of Wednesday. Going by that, company earnings in the October-December quarter are up 6.7 percent from a year earlier, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

"The earnings season is turning out to be pretty good," said Phil Blancato, CEO of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management. "We're starting to see some real earnings growth."

Investors bid up shares in companies that turned in better earnings or outlooks than Wall Street was expecting, including Gannett, Kellogg and Dunkin' Brands.

Gannett, publisher of USA Today and other newspapers, added 35 cents, or 4 percent, to $9.05, while Kellogg gained $2.95, or 4 percent, to $76.44. Dunkin' Brands climbed $2.16, or 4.2 percent, to $54.13.

Traders also welcomed Viacom's latest quarterly results and the media giant's plans to turn its business around. The owner of BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and the Paramount film studio rose $1.82, or 4.3 percent, at $43.89.

Yum Brands also got a lift thanks to stronger U.S. sales at its KFC and Taco Bell chains, which offset weakness at the company's Pizza Hut restaurants. Its shares gained 80 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $67.39.

Results from several companies failed to impress investors.

Twitter slumped 12.3 percent after the social media company's latest quarterly earnings, which topped analyst expectations, were overshadowed by a weak profit forecast. The stock fell $2.31 to $16.41.

Coca-Cola traded lower after its profit fell 55 percent in the most recent quarter. The stock lost 77 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $41.25.

Dun & Bradstreet tumbled 16.8 percent after the business information provider said it expects less revenue from a partnership with Salesforce this year. The stock was the biggest loser in the S&P 500, sliding $20.59 to $101.88.

The major stock indexes in Europe also notched gains Thursday.

Germany's DAX rose 0.9 percent, while France's CAC 40 gained 1.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.6 percent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index slid 0.5 percent ahead of meetings Friday between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump. Most other regional benchmarks notched gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.2 percent, while the Kospi in South Korea was almost flat. Australia's S&P ASX/200 rose 0.2 percent. Shares in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 66 cents, or 1.3 percent, to close at $53 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, gained 51 cents, or about 1 percent, to close at $55.63 a barrel in London.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $1.57 a gallon, while heating oil rose 1 cent to $1.64 a gallon. Natural gas futures gained 2 cents to $3.14 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The dollar rose to 113.33 yen from 112.05 on Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0658 from $1.0687.

Bond prices fell. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.39 percent from 2.34 percent late Wednesday.

In metals trading, the price of gold fell $2.70 to $1,236.80 an ounce. Silver rose 4 cents to $17.74 an ounce. Copper slid 1 cent to $2.65 a pound.

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