Wall St rises slightly, 4-year high eyed
U.S. stocks edged up on Friday after reports on consumer sentiment and housing, but the data gave investors little reason to push past a resistance point at four-year highs.
The S&P 500 has risen over five of the past six sessions and is up 8.8 percent for the year. While many analysts have been expecting a pullback, a break above the 1,370 intraday high from June 2008 could trigger more buying as investors fear missing out on further gains.
Some of the U.S. macroeconomic news is stabilizing and getting better, but the market has already taken that into account, said Ken Polcari, managing director at ICAP Equities in New York.
Consumer sentiment rose in February to a year high, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index.
In addition, single-family home sales in January were higher than economists' expectations in a sign of a budding recovery in the housing sector.
Over the past four sessions the S&P has hovered around 1,360 and closed at a 9-month high on Thursday, although gains were muted for the week with the index up 0.5 percent.
Polcari characterized the market's performance as churning.
If it doesn't pull back and it keeps inching and inching, (asset managers) are going to have to all of a sudden jump in because they are going to be chasing yield, he said.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 21.49 points, or 0.17 percent, to 13,006.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 4.78 points, or 0.35 percent, to 1,368.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 10.84 points, or 0.37 percent, to 2,967.82.
Healthcare stocks moved higher, led by Wellcare Health Plans Inc , which rose 5.1 percent to $70.54 after a roadblock in a legal settlement was removed.
Molina Healthcare Inc gained 2.8 percent to $34.54 after posting its quarterly earnings. The Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index gained 1.5 percent.
Both American International Group Inc and Salesforce.com Inc rallied a day after their earnings beat expectations. AIG climbed 2 percent to $28.54 and Salesforce jumped 8.9 percent to $143.47.
J.C. Penney Co Inc slipped 0.2 percent to $41.84 after swinging to a net fourth-quarter loss and posting a decline in same-store sales.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday morning, of the 461 in the S&P 500 reporting earnings, 63 percent topped expectations. That was below the 70 percent average beat rate in the past four quarters but slightly above the average of 62 percent since 1994.
Kenneth Cole Productions Inc surged 19.1 percent to $15.57 after the company's chairman offered to take it private.
(Reporting By Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)