Wall Street ends higher after bounce in oil prices

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Dow and S&P 500 ended higher on Tuesday, helped by energy stocks and March-quarter earnings reports that topped modest expectations following worries about a strong dollar.

Shares of Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other energy companies followed crude higher after a forecast that US shale oil output in May would record its first monthly decline in more than four years.

The S&P 500 energy index jumped 1.77 per cent.

Norfolk Southern Corp dropped 4.18 per cent to US$100.49 a day after it forecast a surprise drop in its first-quarter earnings and revenue.

A strong dollar, cheap oil and poor weather in the eastern United States in recent months have investors bracing for a difficult March-quarter earnings season.

First-quarter profits for S&P 500 companies are seen falling 2.9 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

On Jan 1, analysts had been looking for growth of 5.3 per cent.

Those lowered expectations mean that companies can now more easily impress investors, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

"This may be one of most hated earnings seasons I remember," Hogan said.

"We've taken those three negative headwinds and plowed them as far as we can into the worst-case scenario."

Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co rose 1.6 per cent after the biggest US bank by assets reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 59.66 points, or 0.33 per cent, to end at 18,036.7.

The S&P 500 gained 3.41 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 2,095.84, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 10.96 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 4,977.29, with Apple down 0.43 per cent.

Chevron's shares gained 2.2 per cent and Exxon rose 1.5 per cent.

Nokia Oyj is in talks to buy Alcatel-Lucent SA, a deal that would combine the telecommunications industry's two weakest players.

US shares of Nokia fell 4.09 per cent to US$7.96 while Alcatel rose 13.33 per cent to US$4.93.

Companies expected to report this week include GE, Philip Morris International and Bank of America.

The dollar was down 0.7 per cent against a basket of major currencies, leaving it with a gain of nearly 10 per cent so far in 2015. A stronger dollar tends to hurt profits for US multinationals.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,910 to 1,120, for a 1.71-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,426 issues fell, and 1,289 advanced for a 1.11-to-1 ratio favouring decliners.

The benchmark S&P 500 posted 5 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 74 new highs and 32 new lows.

About 5.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.1 billion daily average for the month to date, according to BATS Global Markets.

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