Updated from 4:16 p.m. ESTGains in prominent tech names led a broad advance in U.S. stocks Wednesday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high. The Dow rose 87.97 points, or 0.7%, to 12,621.77, and the S&P 500 added 12.14 points, or 0.85%, to 1440.13. The Nasdaq Composite surged 34.87 points, or 1.43%, to 2466.28. AT&T ( T) was the big gainer on the Dow, up 4.3%, after Cingular Wireless said its fourth-quarter profit nearly quadrupled. AT&T, which reports earnings Thursday, acquired Cingular after purchasing BellSouth last month. Also providing support was a 1.5% climb in the Amex Gold Bugs index and a 1.1% increase in the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Housing Sector index. Roughly 2.88 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, and volume on the Nasdaq topped 2.24 billion shares. Winners outpaced losers 2 to 1. "The good corporate earnings was certainly behind today's move," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist with Avalon Partners. "With the market moving in a vivacious way, it indicates there's still cash on the sidelines. We'll continue to look at each sector and any other good news will add flavor." Despite Wall Street's upswing, Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist with Cantor Fitzgerald, said that the market "has seen so much good news over the past few months, it's hard to see what could take stocks to a new bull-market high without time working off these overbought conditions and price building a base pattern.
Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Sun Microsystems ( SUNW) had buyers interested even before the opening bell. After the close Tuesday, Yahoo! offered a soft forecast, but investors cheered the news that its Panama ad system would be out early next month. The stock climbed 7.3% to close at $28.94. Sun was got a lift after saying private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts would invest $700 million in the company and have a chance to place a director on its board. Sun also reported a profit for the latest quarter. Sun added 49 cents, or 8.7%, to $6.15. However, things weren't all rosy for technology. Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD) hit a 52-week low after the chipmaker detailed how its price war with Intel ( INTC) is hurting its profit margins. AMD missed estimates for the fourth quarter, and its first-quarter outlook was lower than many analysts wanted to see. The stock tumbled 8.5% to $16.03. Still, AMD's loss failed to dent the Philadelphia Semiconductor Sector index, which was higher by 1.3%. Corning ( GLW) got past the last quarter's targets, but seasonality will weigh on the first-quarter results, and the company guided lower. Even so, shares jumped $2.06, or 10.9%, to finish at $20.90. Elsewhere, Dow component McDonald's ( MCD) said that fourth-quarter earnings rose to $1.24 billion, or $1 a share, from $608.5 million, or 48 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Profit from continuing operations was 61 cents a share, matching estimates. However, revenue of $5.63 billion was slightly below the Thomson First Call consensus. McDonald's lost 69 cents, or 1.5%, to $44.16.
ConocoPhillips ( COP) posted a fourth-quarter profit of $3.2 billion, or $1.91 a share, falling from a year-ago profit of $3.68 billion, or $2.61 a share. On a continuing operations basis, the company posted earnings of $2.69 a share, ahead of the Thomson First Call estimate of $1.95 a share. ConocoPhillips gained 65 cents, or 1%, to $65.62. Hershey ( HSY) said sales for the quarter ended Dec. 31 slipped to $1.34 billion from $1.35 billion a year earlier, and earnings, excluding certain items, fell short of estimates. The stock was off $1.59, or 3%, to end the session at $50.78. Away from stocks, energy prices extended the previous day's rally despite a bearish report on inventories. Crude oil futures shook off early weakness and finished higher by 33 cents at $55.37 a barrel. Natural gas was down 16 cents to close at $7.42 per million British thermal units. The latest inventory report from the Energy Department initially pulled oil lower. Crude, distillate and gasoline stores all increased. Treasuries were steady as the economic docket was empty. The 10-year note was unchanged in price and yielding 4.81%. The 30-year bond was flat, yielding 4.91%. The dollar was little changed against the yen, the euro and the pound. Equities were stronger overseas. London's FTSE climbed 1.4% to 6314, and Frankfurt's Xetra DAX was up 1% at 6748. Tokyo's Nikkei was better by 0.6% at 17,507, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3% to 20,821. On Thursday, reports are expected from Ford Motor ( F), Microsoft ( MSFT) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY), among others.