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Better-than-expected earnings from major companies lifted benchmarks into positive territory on Tuesday ahead of earnings reports from big technology companies. The S&P 500 touched another five year high propelled by positive earnings from major companies. Meanwhile, existing home sales declined in December. The materials sector was the major gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups, led higher by better-than-expected earnings from DuPont.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 0.5% to close the day at 13,712.21. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) surged 0.4% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,492.56. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.3% to end at 3143.18.The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) dropped 0.2% to settle at 12.43. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.2 billion shares, marginally lower than 2012’s daily average of 6.45 billion shares. Declining stocks outpaced advancers on the NYSE; as for 39% stocks that rose, 56% moved lower.

The Street began the shortened trading week on a positive note. Markets were closed on Monday due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The blue-chip index finished in the green for the third consecutive day. The index has also gained more than 8% this year till date.

Shares of E I Du Pont De Nemours And Co (NYSE:DD) increased 1.8% after its revenue and earnings exceeded the Street’s forecast. However, the company registered a significant decrease in earnings on account of low electronics and communication sales. Shares of wireless carrier, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) increased 0.9% even after earnings missed estimates. The company suffered major losses due to rebuilding and pension costs owing to Hurricane Sandy. On the other hand, the customer base of the company reached new highs in the fourth quarter under contract-based plans.

Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) results failed to meet expectations in spite of registering solid earnings on account of higher sales. Shares of The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE:TRV) surged 2.2% after registering robust results from the premiums written and investments categories of its business. In light of Hurricane Sandy, the number of claims increased as a result of which it negatively affected the net income of the company.

Hurricane Sandy was also responsible for eroding the profits of a major airline company, Delta Airlines. It was the worst affected airline within the industry. In spite of reaping the negative affects of the storm, the company registered better-than-expected results. Shares of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) increased 2.9% as it beat the Street’s estimates.

Republicans plan to put forward a bill in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday for extending the US debt limit till May 19. This step was accepted by the White House and also played a role in helping the indices finish in the green territory on Tuesday. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said if the current Republican proposal about the debt ceiling “reaches the president's desk he would not stand in the way of the bill becoming law.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales declined 1.0% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million. This was below the consensus estimate of 5.11 million. But overall sales in 2012 were highest since 2007. According to Lawrence Yun NAR chief economist “Record low mortgage interest rates clearly are helping many home buyers, but tight inventory and restrictive mortgage underwriting standards are limiting sales.”

The Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) increased the most, among the S&P 500 industry groups, gaining 1.1%. Major gainers from the sector include Rockwood Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:ROC), Eastman Chemical Company (NYSE:EMN), FMC Corporation (NYSE:FMC) and The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE:DOW) which increased by 1.7%, 0.3%, 1.3% and 0.4%, respectively.
 

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