Energy, banking shares lead US stocks higher

NEW YORK (AFP) - Energy and banking shares led US stocks higher on Wednesday (Oct 19) following strong results from Halliburton and Morgan Stanley and another rise in oil prices, which ended at their highest level this year.

Halliburton jumped 4.3 per cent after it described a pickup in North American activity and offered an improved outlook for oil services following a two-year slump.

Morgan Stanley climbed 1.9 per cent as it reported a 61.7 per cent increase in third-quarter earnings to US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) due to strong gains in its trading division.

That capped a solid round of earnings for big banks. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America all rose at least 1 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2 per cent to 18,202.62.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.2 per cent to 2,144.29, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.1 per cent at 5,246.41.

Earnings reports are generally beating expectations, said CFRA Research chief investment strategist Sam Stovall.

"We started the reporting period thinking that earnings would be down 1 per cent," he said. "Now it looks as if they will be down by less than half than 1 per cent and the trend is likely to get even better before reporting period is all done."

Dow member Intel slumped 5.9 per cent as it projected fourth-quarter sales of US$15.7 billion, below the US$15.9 billion analysts expected.

Yahoo increased 2.5 per cent after reporting that third-quarter profits more than doubled to US$163 million. The Internet company signaled that it was on track to close its acquisition by Verizon despite a large hack of Yahoo users the company disclosed after the Verizon deal was announced.

Starbucks rose 1 per cent as it announced plans to double the number of its stores in China to 5,000 from the current 2,300.