Dow, S&P 500 end at highs on stimulus hopes, IBM

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Oct 23, 2013 in New York City. The Dow and S&P 500 ended at record highs on Tuesday after economic data supported views that the Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus intact for
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Oct 23, 2013 in New York City. The Dow and S&P 500 ended at record highs on Tuesday after economic data supported views that the Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus intact for several months and IBM rallied after the company announced a stock buyback. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP 

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Dow and S&P 500 ended at record highs on Tuesday after economic data supported views that the Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus intact for several months and IBM rallied after the company announced a stock buyback.

IBM gave the biggest boost to the Dow, which led the day's gains. The stock, which also helped drive the S&P 500's advance, jumped 2.7 per cent to $182.12 after the company's board of directors approved another US$15 billion (S$18.5 billion) for stock buybacks.

In the latest economic data, a gauge of United States (US) consumer spending rose in September, but another report showed consumer confidence fell sharply in October because of worries about the impact of the partial government shutdown.

The data added to evidence of sluggish economic growth just as the Fed began a two-day policy meeting. Expectations are high that officials are unlikely to shift monetary policy this week as they wait for more evidence of how badly Washington's budget battle has hurt the US economy.

"The ghosts of tapering are not coming this Halloween," said Mr Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer for equities at Charles Schwab Corp.

"The government shutdown pushed the tapering discussion further out." That's likely to keep a floor under stocks for the near term at least, though longer term, slow growth in earnings and especially in revenue may be a concern, he said.

Limiting some of the day's gains in both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500, Apple shares dropped 2.5 per cent to $516.68 a day after the iPad and iPhone maker delivered disappointing results.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 111.42 points, or 0.72 per cent, to end at 15,680.35, a record close.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 9.84 points, or 0.56 per cent, to finish at 1,771.95, also a record closing high. The S&P 500 hit another intraday record high at 1,772.09.

The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 12.21 points, or 0.31 per cent, to close at 3,952.34.

Tuesday's rally brings the S&P 500's gain for the year to date to 24.2 per cent.

In the latest technical issue to befall the Nasdaq exchange, the Nasdaq OMX Group said human error left the exchange unable to transmit index values for nearly 45 minutes, leading to a temporary halt in options trading on some stock indexes.

After the bell, shares of LinkedIn dropped 3.1 per cent to $239.45 after the social networking company for recruiters and job seekers gave a conservative revenue forecast for the fourth quarter and fiscal 2013.

LinkedIn shares ended the regular session at $247.14, up 1.7 per cent. Shares of video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc rose 2.8 per cent to $24.80 in extended-hours trading after the company reported a higher quarterly profit. In regular trading, Electronic Arts shares fell 2.8 per cent to close at $24.13.

During the regular session, the Dow also got a boost from Pfizer Inc, which rose 1.7 per cent to $31.25 after the largest US drugmaker reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

As has been the case in recent quarters, more companies have been beating analysts' earnings expectations than revenue expectations. With results in from 281 of the S&P 500 companies, 68.7 per cent have topped profit expectations, above the long-term average of 63 per cent, while just 52.5 per cent have beaten revenue estimates, below the 61 per cent rate since 2002, based on Thomson Reuters data.

Cummins Inc slumped 5.2 per cent to $127.90. It was the S&P 500's worst performer after the US maker of engines and other vehicle components reported lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday and cut its full-year outlook.

Another decliner was JPMorgan Chase, down 0.1 per cent at $52.73 after a person familiar with the situation said the preliminary US$13 billion deal set by the bank's CEO and the US attorney general has hit a stumbling block.