Boeing, Caterpillar lift US stocks

The deal valued at US$3 billion (S$4.2 million) is the first between major American and Iranian companies since President Donald Trump took office.VIDEO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished modestly higher on Tuesday (April 4) following strong gains by Caterpillar and Boeing, offset by concerns that US economic growth may fall short of expectations.

Analysts said weak US auto sales in March and other disappointing data raised concerns that recent strong business confidence readings may not mean much.

That gap is "making it difficult to justify some of the lofty stock valuations," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

But Dow member Caterpillar rose 2.1 per cent following a "buy" recommendation from Goldman Sachs, which said the industrial company was well-positioned for improvement in the construction and mining markets.

Boeing rose 1.2 per cent as it announced that Iran Aseman Airlines had agreed to buy 30 737 MAX jets for US$3 billion (S$4.2 billion) in its second major deal since sanctions on Iran were eased last year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.2 per cent at 20,689.24.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.1 per cent to 2,360.16, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.1 percent at 5,898.61.

Airline shares were hammered after Delta Air Lines projected that first-quarter consolidated passenger revenue fell 0.5 percent, weaker than its previous estimate. Delta lost 2.6 per cent, while American Airlines fell 3.7 per cent and United Continental 2.2 per cent.

Twenty-First Century Fox fell 1.2 per cent as several leading advertisers pulled commercials from Bill O'Reilly's show following reports of sexual harassment by the host.

Ralph Lauren Corporation slumped 4.5 per cent after announcing it would book US$370 million in one-time expenses for job cuts and store closures, including the shuttering of its Polo flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Staples surged 9.9 per cent following a Wall Street Journal report that the office supplies retailer was in talks with potential acquirers. The newspaper said the talks are at an early stage and may not result in a deal.