Updated from 4:08 p.m. EDT
Stocks closed a volatile session to the upside Wednesday, as optimism following a big quarter at
overcame a disappointing report on housing and a sharp rise in oil prices.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
, which swung between a range of nearly 150 points, finished with a gain of 68.12 points, or 0.5%, at 13,785.07. The
tacked on 7.05 points, or 0.47%, at 1518.09. The
rose 8.31 points, or 0.31%, to 2648.17.
The gains came amid a solid round of earnings reports, with Internet giant Amazon leading the way. The company's results, reported after the prior close, easily exceeded analyst estimates, and Amazon sounded optimistic tones on the rest of the year.
Several research firms raised their ratings on the stock, including Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Lehman and Bear Stearns. Amazon soared by $16.93, or 24.5%, to end the day at $86.18.
The major averages ran into trouble, though, after the release of the National Association of Realtors' report on existing-home sales for June. Sales dropped 3.8% to 5.75 million annualized units, the lowest level since November 2002. Following the report, the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index slid 0.5%
The data is just horrible," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "Second-quarter sales fell at a 28% annualized rate, the fastest decline so far in this crunch. Housing is contracting at an accelerating pace, taking out with a vengeance the brief stabilization at the turn of the year, when mild weather and plunging gas prices supported activity."
Also adding to volatility was word that
investment bankers are delaying a $12 billion debt sale for the automaker. That news appeared in
The Wall Street Journal
and cited a source close to the situation.
Though the report said the postponement shouldn't affect the plan by Cerberus to buy most of Chrysler from
, it did ensure that investors remain on edge about the credit market. Despite the news, shares of the automaker rose $3.57, or 4%, to close at $93.02.
Worries about the debt arena helped drive stocks lower Tuesday, and the Dow plunged more than 225 points. The S&P 500 lost 30.53 points, or 1.98% on the day, to 1511.04, and the Nasdaq sank 50.72 points, or 1.89%, to 2639.86.
Energy prices were in focus in the new session, as the Energy Department posted its weekly inventory report. The data showed a draw of 1.1 million barrels from crude inventories last week. Distillate stocks rose 1.5 million barrels, and gasoline inventories increased by 800,000 barrels last week.
Meanwhile, news of a Canadian oil pipe rupture raised supply concerns. The front-month September crude contract jumped $2.32 at $75.88 a barrel. Gasoline prices added 4 cents to $2.08 a gallon.
"We had some real good earnings today, and that has now outweighed the housing report in investor's mind," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist with Avalon Partners. "Oil tried to be the spoiler today, but traders are not paying attention to it."
Despite the strong finish, breadth remained negative. About 3.97 billion shares changed hands on the
New York Stock Exchange
, as decliners topped advancers by a 5-to-3 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 2.49 billion shares, with losers outpacing advancers 8 to 7.
While virtually every market sector finished with losses Tuesday, many recovered and closed with advances Wednesday. Among the winners, the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector Index added 2.1%, the Nasdaq Biotech Index was higher by 1.6%, the Amex Oil Index climbed 1.1%, and the Nasdaq Financial Index rose 0.4%.
Art Hogan, chief market analyst with Jefferies, said the major averages ultimately finished higher because there was so much good news on the earnings front.
"It would take a pretty big disappointment to bring us down, as I think we are oversold following yesterday's decline," he said. "There's not much that will slow down this recovery."
Aside from Amazon, the rest of corporate America generally was continuing to offer numbers that were better than expected.
were among the early reporters that beat Wall Street's targets.
Boeing was the top performer on the Dow, finishing higher by 3.3% to $107.23. General Dynamics gained $2.79, or 3.5%, to $83.09, boosting the defense sector.
Also topping estimates were
. Both of those companies issued forecasts that were in line with analysts' views, while
edged up its projections.
Likewise, two major names from Japan,
, raised their outlooks.
The market also digested the 2 p.m. EDT release of the
regional business survey, known as the beige book.
The report said that U.S. economic activity continued to expand in the 12 districts at a modest or moderate pace between late June and July, with many regions describing higher input costs due to petroleum prices. Consumer spending was generally positive, and most districts reported an increase in manufacturing activity, according to the report.
Treasury prices were little changed. The 10-year note was up 3/32 in price, yielding 4.90%, and the 30-year bond was flat, yielding 5.03%.
Metals prices were giving up ground. Gold was down $11 to $673.80 an ounce, and silver ended lower by 29 cents at $13.15 an ounce.
Overseas, stocks were mostly lower. Tokyo's Nikkei fell 0.8% overnight, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.5%. Frankfurt's DAX was off 1.5%, while London's FTSE eased 0.7%.
After the bell, computer and music-player giant
weighed in with its second-quarter results. The company blew by estimates with earnings of 92 cents a share, compared with Wall Street's forecast of 72 cents.
The earnings torrent will continue before Thursday's open, when such names as
are due to report.