NEW YORK (
) -- Stocks finished firmly in the positive territory Tuesday, led by better-than-expected earnings from
Johnson & Johnson
and a rebound in March housing starts.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
gained 65 points, or 0.5%, to close at 12,266, after trading as high as 12,275 and as low as 12,200 earlier in the session. The
finished higher by nearly 8 points, or 0.5%, at 1312, while the
rose by nearly 10 points, or 0.3%, to close at 2745.
"So far, earnings have been pretty good, and that's what helped stabilize the market today. The market is trying to recover after yesterday's losses," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners.
On Monday, stocks lost 1% after ratings agency Standard & Poor's lowered its outlook on AAA-rated U.S. debt because of concerns about Washington's ability to address its mounting debt.
Dow component Johnson and Johnson was the Dow's top performer on Tuesday, after it easily topped expectations with earnings of $1.35 a share on sales of $16.17 billion; analysts expected earnings of $1.26 on sales of $15.87 billion.
The company also raised its full-year earnings guidance to between $4.90 and $5 a share, which exceeded Wall Street's forecast for earnings of $4.84 a share. The stock surged 3.7% to $62.64.
were other prominent gainers.
Bank of America
, which has fallen in five straight sessions, among the biggest laggards on the Dow along with
shed 1.4% to $151.64, surrendering early gains after the
bank reported a first-quarter profit of $1.56 a share and revenue of $11.89 billion. The results beat analysts' projections for earnings of 82 cents a share on revenue of $10.22 billion but the stock
Rochdale Securities banking analyst
Richard Bove downgraded Goldman to neutral, citing a weaker economic outlook and regulatory challenges.
After the closing bell,
reported an adjusted earnings per share of $2.41 on revenues of $24.6 billion. Analysts were expecting an earnings per share of $2.30 on @24.02 billion. IBM also raised its 2011 EPS forecast to $13.15. Shares were gaining 2.4% in extended trading.
also managed a strong earnings beat, reporting profits of 59 cents per share on revenues of $12.9 billion. Analysts expected profits of 46 cents per share. Its second quarter profit of 32 cents to 35 cents per share was also well ahead of estimates of 28 cents. Shares shot up more than 5% in extended trading.
meanwhile beat analyst estimates by a penny, reporting a profit of 16 cents per share on revenues of $1.06 billion.
Market breadth was positive with 64% of the stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange advancing, while 34% declined.
In other earnings news,
saw its stock drop 5.3% to $37.61 after the
motorcycle company missed Wall's Street's profit expectations by 2 cents with first-quarter earnings of 51 cents a share.
rose 3.8% to $23.85 after posting a surprise first-quarter profit late Monday.
The bank reported earnings of 8 cents a share, compared with the loss of 18 cents a share that analysts had forecast .
shed 2.1% and 1.2% respectively despite beating expectations. Both banks reported improvement in credit quality, but investors were disappointed in the lackluster trends in loan growth.
In commodity markets,
gold prices finished modestly higher after briefly hitting the psychological mark of $1,500 an ounce. Prices on the safe haven metal gained strength after the S&P's cut outlook on U.S. debt triggered uncertainty. The June gold contract gained $2.2 to settle at $1,495.80 an ounce.
"Gold trading at near $1,500/oz comes as no surprise following yesterday’s news on the S&P downgrade of its outlook for US government debt," Imaru Casanova, equity research analyst at MLV Securities said in an email. "This is exactly the way gold prices should react when there is increased risk and investors are looking for a safe haven in the form of hard assets."
Casanova continued: "I believe fundamentals are supportive of these and higher levels in the long-term, but volatility will prevail both because of the market's perception that these record levels may not be sustained and because of the profit taking that typically follows periods of peak prices."”
Oil prices were also making marginal movements with the June crude contract rising 59 cents to settle at $108.28 a barrel.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 4/32, diluting the yield to 3.367%. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index down by 0.5%.
Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 1.3% and Japan's Nikkei lost 1.2%. London's FTSE gained 0.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.04%.
--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.