S&P Closes at Four-Year High

Stocks moved higher after an upbeat report from the Federal Reserve.
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Updated from 4:06 p.m. EDT

Stocks closed higher Wednesday after a bullish economic assessment from the

Federal Reserve

brought out buyers, and the

S&P 500

(SPX)

finished at its best level in four years.

The S&P 500 added 5.63 points, or 0.46%, at 1236.79, and the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

I:DJI

rose 57.32 points, or 0.54%, to 10,637.09. The

Nasdaq Composite

(NASDAQ)

gained 10.23 points, or 0.47%, to 2186.22.

The Nasdaq has gained roughly 282 points, or 14.8%, since its 2005 low of 1904.18 on April 28. The index currently sits just 2 points shy of its 2005 closing high.

About 1.47 billion shares changed hands on the

New York Stock Exchange

, with advancers beating decliners by a 10-to-7 margin. Trading volume on the Nasdaq was 1.78 billion shares, with advancers outpacing decliners 8 to 7.

"When you have a market that is poised for a correction and refuses to do so, there is likely a more powerful story," said Barry Hyman, equity market strategist with Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum. "For now, it's that earnings have been very good and the economy remains resilient. There is a lot of money coming in from the sidelines, and we might be on the verge of breaking through last week's technical levels."

In other markets, the 10-year Treasury note was down 7/32 in price to yield 4.26%, while the dollar was lower against the yen and euro.

Buying picked up after the Fed's latest "beige book" report indicated that economic activity continued to expand in June and early July, with New York the only district reporting a slowing rate of economic growth. Labor markets also continued to improve, and price pressures were subdued.

Oil eased after the Energy Department's weekly report on fuel stocks, with September crude finishing down 9 cents to $59.11 in Nymex floor trading. The weekly update showed a 2.3-million-barrel decline in crude inventories, more than double expectations. Distillate stocks rose 3.1 million barrels, higher than forecasts.

Stronger sectors Wednesday included telecom services, energy, health care and transportation. Semiconductors, banks and airlines were among the weaker areas.

Stocks ended mixed Tuesday, with the Dow losing 17 points for its second consecutive decline, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 9 points to finish just shy of its 2005 closing high.

The tone improved in the late session after

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

posted second-quarter earnings and revenue that topped estimates and previewed solid growth for the rest of the year.

Because of a higher tax expense, the online retailer's quarterly earnings fell 32% to $52 million, or 12 cents a share, on a 26% jump in revenue to $1.75 billion. For the third quarter, Amazon expects sales of $1.76 billion to $1.91 billion, or a growth rate between 20% and 31%. Analysts had been expecting sales of $1.81 billion. Shares of Amazon added $5.91, or 15.7%, to close at $43.65.

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

said second-quarter earnings fell to $566 million, or 70 cents a share, from $607 million, or 75 cents a share, last year. Results included a charge of 9 cents a share related to asset sales. The year-ago period had 23 cents a share in income related to a tax refund. Sales rose to $15.03 billion from $13.09 billion a year ago. The Thomson First Call consensus was for earnings of 61 cents a share on sales of $14.49 billion.

For all of 2005, Boeing raised its earnings forecast and affirmed its 2005 revenue estimate. For 2006, Boeing sees core earnings of $3 to $3.20 a share, whereas the consensus is $3.25. Shares gained 35 cents, or 0.5%, to $66.70.

Health maintenance organization

WellPoint's

(WLP)

second-quarter earnings rose 135% from a year ago to $559.4 million, or 90 cents a share, including a 10-cent charge. Analysts were forecasting 90 cents a share in the quarter.

Excluding special items, WellPoint expects to earn $3.97 a share in all of 2005, a penny ahead of estimates. Revenue should be around $44.6 billion, the company said, about $700 million below estimates. The stock fell $1.19, or 1.7%, to $67.10.

Sprint

(FON)

reported second-quarter earnings of $600 million, or 40 cents a share, up from $236 million, or 16 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding items, the company earned $637 million, or 42 cents a share. Revenue increased 4% to $7.11 billion from $6.87 billion a year earlier. The Thomson First Call consensus was for a profit of 36 cents a share on revenue of $7.07 billion. Shares of Sprint rose $1.40, or 5.6%, to $26.37.

Monster Worldwide

(MNST) - Get Report

said second-quarter earnings rose 21% to $19.6 million, or 16 cents a share, on a 32% rise in revenue to $239 million. Continuing earnings of 21 cents a share were a penny ahead of estimates. Monster added $2.04, or 7.2%, to $30.49.

Siebel

(SEBL)

made good on its July 7 profit warning, saying late Tuesday that it swung to a second-quarter loss of $71.3 million, or 10 cents a share. License revenue fell 17% to $78.3 million. Shares fell 6 cents, or 0.7%, to $8.42.

Sun Micro

(SUNW) - Get Report

earned $121 million, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $2.98 billion in its fourth quarter. Adjusted earnings of 6 cents a share were 5 cents better than estimates. The company reported improvements in its book-to-bill ratio, product services backlog and its deferred revenue. Sun Micro was higher by 2 cents, or 0.5%, to close at $3.87.

Other companies that reported earnings before the bell Wednesday included

Colgate-Palmolive

(CL) - Get Report

,

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

,

Kellogg

(K) - Get Report

,

Martha Stewart Living

(MSO)

and

Anheuser-Busch

(BUD) - Get Report

.

Companies reporting after the bell Wednesday include

Starbucks

(SBUX) - Get Report

, which is expected to post fiscal third-quarter EPS of 30 cents after earning 24 cents a share a year ago, and biotech outfit

Chiron

(CHIR) - Get Report

.

On the economic front, the Commerce Department said durable goods orders rose 1.4% in June, ahead of economists' expectations of a 1.0% decline. June's increase is the largest in about three years. May's figure was revised higher to 6.4% from 5.5%. Excluding transportation, orders rose 2.6%, also much stronger than the consensus of a 1.0% rise.

"The strength in this report is concentrated in core capital goods orders, up 3.8% -- the biggest gain since January," says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "After three declines in four months, this is a welcome development, and it is consistent with the unexpected jump in the ISM orders index in June."

Also, the Commerce Department said new-home sales for June rose 4% to a record 1.37 million units. Economists expected a 0.2% increase to an annual rate of 1.300 million homes.

Overseas markets were higher, with London's FTSE 100 higher by 0.1% at 5263, while Germany's Xetra DAX was up 0.2% at 4855. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.8% overnight to 11,835, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2% to 14,802.

To view Aaron Task's video take on today's market, click here

.