Strong Company Earnings Drive U.S. Stock Indexes to New Highs

NEW YORK (AP) -

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.

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.

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.

Yum Brands 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.

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.