Stocks Rise on Optimism for Corporate Earnings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages recorded firm gains Wednesday after Alcoa ( AA) ushered in the earnings season with stronger-than-expected revenue amid Wall Street's increasingly subdued estimates on fourth-quarter corporate growth.

Constellation Brands ( STZ) followed up on Alcoa's upbeat announcement with a solid quarterly release of its own.

Earnings season is expected to kick into high gear next week as the big banks release their quarterly results. Wells Fargo's ( WFC) report is scheduled for this Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped by 62 points, or 0.5%, to 13,391.

Breadth was positive, with winners edging losers 18 to 12. The top percentage blue-chip gainers were Boeing ( BA), Pfizer ( PFE), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and UnitedHealth Group ( UNH). Procter & Gamble ( PG) also rose on Wednesday.

Procter & Gamble has announced the appointment of Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren to its board of directors, effective immediately. P&G director Johnathan Rodgers has decided not to seek re-election at P&G's annual shareholder meeting in October, choosing to retire from the board at that time. Shares were up 0.51%.

Sinking to the bottom were Bank of America ( BAC), Exxon ( XOM) and AT&T ( T).

Bank of America shares were down 4.6% after the stock was cut to "neutral" from "outperform" at Credit Suisse, based on valuation.

The S&P 500 rose 4 points, or 0.3%, to 1,461. The Nasdaq added 14 points, or 0.5%, to 3,106.

All sectors in the broad market were advancing, led higher by consumer cyclicals, transportation, capital goods and conglomerates.

Volumes totaled 3.62 billion shares on the Big Board and 1.73 billion shares on the Nasdaq. Advancers were outpacing decliners by a ratio of 2.1-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.9-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

Mark Newton, chief technical analyst at Greywolf, was anticipating more upside for stocks into the end of the week.

"Today's rally marks one of the sharpest two-day rallies in the SPX since 2008, but despite being short-term overbought, the success in closing above December highs in the major indices should likely help prices rally through end of week before any short-term top is in place," Newton said in a note.

Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, issued a note saying fourth-quarter S&P 500 company growth estimates have steadily come down from September, and have been even lower excluding financials.

Greenhaus said a major reason for the drop in estimates is expectations that the tech sector may take a hit from Apple ( AAPL). Expectations are that the tech giant may suffer a rare year-over-year drop in quarterly earnings.

During this earnings season, investors will also be watching for corporate commentary on whether fourth-quarter profits suffered any collateral damage from the "fiscal cliff" battle.

Alcoa reported in-line fourth-quarter earnings of 6 cents a share on revenue of $5.9 billion, which beat top-line estimates. Analysts expected profit of 6 cents a share on revenue of $5.6 billion. Shares of Alcoa dipped 0.22%.

The company said it expected to be in a good position for 2013 on global demand growth in aluminum amid a pickup in the Chinese economic recovery.

"Such anecdotal signs that the belly of the Chinese dragon is starting to rumble again will not go unnoticed by investors around the world," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economist strategist at Miller Tabak.

During an interview with CNBC on the company's earnings, Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld warned that the U.S. must resolve debt ceiling issues or see the destruction of market confidence.

No major U.S. economic releases were published Wednesday.

Gold for February delivery slid Wednesday by $6.70 at $1,655.50 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil contracts fell 5 cents to finish at $93.56 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 1/32 to dilute the yield to 1.867%. The dollar was up 0.24%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

Wine company Constellation Brands raised its full-year profit outlook after posting third-quarter earnings of 63 cents a share on revenue of $767 million, blowing past the average analyst estimate of 55 cents a share on revenue of $751.8 million. Shares lost 0.67% as investors took profits after the stock had gained more than 2%.

Dish Network ( DISH) offered to acquire Clearwire ( CLWR) for $3.30 a share, or $5.15 billion, topping a bid from Sprint ( S) for the wireless service provider. Dish shares rose 2.5%, while Clearwire shares surged 7.2%.

Seagate Technology ( STX), the disk-drive maker, on Tuesday raised revenue guidance for the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 28.

Seagate said it expects quarterly revenue of at least $3.6 billion, higher than its previous forecast of about $3.5 billion. Shares added 6.6%.

Apollo Group ( APOL) shares plunged 7.7% after the private education provider slashed its fiscal 2013 outlook for operating income.

MasterCard ( MA) shares increased 2.8% after the stock was upgraded by Goldman Sachs.

Dunkin Brands ( DNKN) shares rose 2.5% after the stock was upgraded at Janney.

Morgan Stanley ( MS) shares slipped 0.15% amid reports that the bank will be eliminating 1,600 jobs at its institutional securities group.

Trading in the shares of bankrupt AMR ( AAMRQ.PK) popped 43% Wednesday after the carrier's bankruptcy attorney said they may have value.

-- Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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