- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 9, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market nudged higher Tuesday, putting it on track for a fourth day of gains, as investors waited for more quarterly results from companies.

Investors are turning their attention to corporate earnings after spending much of the past month preoccupied with the outlook for the Federal Reserve’s stimulus.

Along with the latest quarterly results, investors want to see how confident companies are about the rest of the year, said Cam Albright, director of asset allocation for Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors.

Major U.S. stock indexes have notched a series of all-time highs this year on expectations that earnings will remain at record levels.

“A lot of what the market has justified its advances on is a strong second half for the economy and a strong second half for earnings,” Mr. Albright said. “It’s important that we see verification of that.”

Analysts at investment bank Goldman Sachs said in a note Tuesday that they expected second-quarter earnings growth of about 2 percent. They predicted that revenue growth would remain weak, however, hurt by a lackluster economy and a stronger dollar.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 75 points, or 0.5 percent, to 15,300 as of 2:57 p.m. EDT. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 11 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,651. The Nasdaq composite rose 19 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,504.

Investors on Tuesday bought companies that grow the most when the economic outlook is bright. Industrial companies notched the biggest gains among the 10 sectors in the S&P 500. Phone companies, which investors turn to when the outlook is gloomier, were the only sector to fall.

In another sign of investor confidence, the Russell 2000 gained 8 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,017. The index of small-company stocks has gained 4.1 percent in July and is at record levels.

The index has risen more this year than the Dow and the S&P 500, and the gains suggest that investors are becoming more comfortable in taking on riskier investments.

“When you see that leadership from the smaller caps, that’s probably a good sign overall for the bigger blue chips to potentially follow suit,” said Ryan Detrick, a senior technical strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research. “People are leaving the more defensive areas.”

The Russell 2000 has gained 19.5 percent since the start of the year, compared with a rise of 16.6 percent for the Dow and a gain of 15.7 percent for the S&P 500.

Alcoa was the first major company to announce second-quarter results. The aluminum maker late Monday reported a second-quarter loss that wasn’t as big as financial analysts had expected. The company benefited from strong demand for aluminum used in autos and airplanes, although that was offset by weaker prices.

Traders weren’t blown away by the results, though. After initially rising, the stock fell 3 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $7.89.

Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and Family Dollar store are among the companies reporting their earnings this week. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo will give an indication as to how banks are faring on Friday.

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