Stocks Edge Higher as Dow Continues Slow Ascent

The blue-chip index rallied late to finish in positive territory as encouraging consumer confidence data trumped disappointments from earnings reports.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Stocks managed slight gains in tight trading on Tuesday, recouping earlier losses in the final hour of the session as encouraging consumer confidence data trumped disappointments from earnings reports.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished 5 points, or 0.05% higher, at 11,169. The blue-chip index, which bounced between 11,087 and nearly 11,185 on Tuesday, rose for a second-straight session and the fourth time in the past five sessions, but overall it's gained less than 100 points during that time. The

S&P 500

was relatively unchanged at 1,185, trading in a narrow range of less than 10 points all day. The

Nasdaq Composite

added 6 points, or 0.3%, to close at 2,497.

Energy, transportation and consumer cyclicals led the markets higher while basic materials and the capital goods sectors underperformed.

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

,

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

were the biggest gainers on the Dow, while

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

and

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

were the biggest laggards among the blue chips.

After the bell,

Dreamworks Animation

(DWA)

said profits grew to $39.8 million or 47 cents per share, beating estimates of 35 cents a share by a wide margin. The stock was gaining 4.3% in extended trading.

Western Union

(WU) - Get Report

climbed 1.4% in aftermarket trading after it beat earnings estimates by 2 cents.

Investors woke up to mixed economic reports on Tuesday. The Conference Board said

consumer confidence rose to a better-than-expected level of 50.2 from 48.6 in September. According to Briefing.com, economists had expected an October reading of 49.

"The mood is improving, but progress is slow -- not unlike the pace of the growth in the economy itself," said Jim Baird, partner and chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

"Broadly, the story of the consumer is still two steps forward, one step back. Today's release represented one of those forward steps, but the increase is incrementally positive in an otherwise subdued upward trend," he said.

Meanwhile, the

S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city August home price index rose 1.7% from August of last year , which was lower than the growth of 2.1% that economists had been expecting, according to Briefing.com.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, meanwhile, reported an uptick of 0.4% to its August house price index for August, improving from July's decline of 0.5%.

Disappointing results from steel companies were another reason for stocks to pause.

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report

and warnings for weak demand next quarter from

ArcelorMittal

(MT) - Get Report

. Shares of rival

AK Steel

(AKS) - Get Report

, which posted a third-quarter loss of $59.2 million, or 54 cents per share, because of rising material costs, closed 3.9% lower at $12.84.

ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, said third-quarter net earnings jumped 48% to $1.35 billion and sales gained 30% to $21.04 billion, but the company lowered its expectations for the rest of year, citing higher material prices and weaker demand. Shares dropped 5.4% to $32.93.

U.S. Steel posted an unexpected net loss of 35 cents a share, which included currency gains of 96 cents a share. According to Briefing.com, analysts had been anticipating a profit of 23 cents a share. Sales, meanwhile, rose to $4.5 billion, from $2.82 billion a year ago. The stock was down 3.4% to $40.85.

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.A) - Get Report

dropped 1.3% to $123,455 after legendary investor Warren Buffett appointed Todd Combs, manager of $400-million financial services- focused hedge fund, to manage part of Berkshire's $100 billion portfolio.

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

said it plans to buy another $10 billion of its shares. Shares rose 0.6% to $140.67.

In other earnings news,

U.S. automaker

Ford

(F) - Get Report

reported third-quarter net income of $1.7 billion, or 43 cents a share, and pretax operating profits of $2.1 billion, or 48 cents a share. Analysts had been forecasting a profit of 38 cents. Shares gained 1.5% to $14.36.

TD Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

said net income fell 27% year-over-year to 20 cents a share and sales slipped 7.5% to $608.8 million. Analysts had expected earnings of 23 cents a share on sales of $619 million. The stock was up 0.2% at $16.79 in recent trades.

Shares of handbag maker

Coach

(COH)

jumped 11.9% to $49.78 after it posted a third-quarter gain of 63 cents a share on sales that were 20% higher at $991.7 million. The results exceeded Wall Street's expectations for profits of 55 cents a share on sales of $846.8 million.

Royal Carribean Cruises

(RCL) - Get Report

cruised 15% to $40.23

after it raised its 2011 outlook.

Bancorp South

(BXS) - Get Report

plunged 12.6% to $12.61 after the bank announced after Monday's market

close a very large increase in nonperforming loans during the third quarter.

IT services provider

Unisys

(UIS) - Get Report

said profits fell more than 50% to 65 cents a share on lower revenue for its enterprise servers. The stock plummeted 22.2% to $24.26.

Kimberly Clark

(KMB) - Get Report

fell 5.8% to $62.61 after it lowered full-year guidance citing soft demand, high raw material costs and aggressive competition.

Regions Financial

(RF) - Get Report

reported a lower loss in the third quarter but disappointed investors who had expected a smaller loss. The stock was down 7.8% at $6.48.

Shares of

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

were down 1.1% to $26.86 after the pharmaceutical company said net earnings fell 2% to 55 cents a share and sales were largely flat at $4.798 billion. Analysts had been expecting earnings of 53 cents. The company also reaffirmed its year-end guidance range for a profit of $2.10 to $2.20 a share. Wall Street projects a full-year gain of $2.13.

Johnson Controls

(JCI) - Get Report

saw its stock drop ahead of Tuesday's opening bell despite reporting adjusted earnings of 60 cents a share on sales of $9 billion, which beat expectations for earnings of 57 cents on sales of $8.73 billion. The company also said it expects earnings of $2.30 to $2.45 a share on sales of $37 billion next year. Analysts have been anticipating earnings of $2.44 a share on sales of $36.76 billion. Shares fell 0.7% to $34.49.

DuPont topped Wall Street's estimates with earnings of $367 million, or 40 cents a share, despite weaker profits from its pharmaceuticals segments. The stock lost 1% to $47.22.

Shares of

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

declined 0.3% to $28.88 after the company easily topped expectations late Monday but warned that sales would decline in the fourth quarter.

In commodity markets, the December crude oil contract added 6 cents to trade at $82.58 a barrel. Meanwhile, the December gold contract pared early losses to settle at $1,338 an ounce.

Meanwhile, the dollar was trading higher against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.7%, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury note declined 21/32, strengthening the yield to 2.643%.

Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.1% while Japan's Nikkei shed 0.3%. The FTSE in London declined 0.8% and the DAX in Frankfurt closed lower by 0.4%.

--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Venkataraman in New York

.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.