U.S. Stocks Advance On Leading Indicators, Sentiment Data

U.S. stocks advanced, putting the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index on track for its fourth straight week of gains, as gauges for leading indicators and consumer sentiment advanced more than estimated. Northrop Grumman Corp. climbed 3.5 percent after increasing its share-buyback program by $4 billion. Boeing Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. added more than 1.9 percent to pace gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (INDU) J.C. Penney Co. slid 2.5 percent after its first-quarter loss widened.

The S&P 500 (SPX) rose 0.5 percent to 1,658.15 at 1:11 p.m. in New York. The equity benchmark is heading for a 1.5 percent weekly gain. The Dow advanced 52.95 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,286.17. “You’ve got the leading indicators helping the market today,” Thomas Nyheim, a Wilmington, Delaware-based fund manager for Christiana Trust, which oversees about $16 billion, said in a phone interview. “We’re seeing good signs for the economy, you’re getting this grinding, slow growth that just keeps coming out.” The index of U.S. leading indicators climbed in April, a rebound from March that suggests the world’s largest economy may be poised for further expansion. The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months climbed 0.6 percent last month after falling a revised 0.2 percent in March that was steeper than previously reported, the New York-based group said today.

Consumer Sentiment Consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level in almost six years as an advancing stock market and cheaper gas prices helped lift Americans’ outlook on the economy. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose to 83.7 in May from 76.4 the prior month, a report today showed. The U.S. bull market has entered its fifth year. The S&P 500 has surged 145 percent from a 12-year low in 2009, driven by better-than-estimated corporate earnings and three rounds of bond purchases from the Federal Reserve. The rally pushed 193 stocks in the S&P 500, or 39 percent of the gauge, to their highest levels in at least 52 weeks on May 15, the most in Bloomberg data going back to 1993. About 90 percent of stocks in the benchmark index traded above their average prices from the past 50 days as of yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, approaching the two-year high of 93 percent reached January. Options contracts on stocks, exchange-traded funds and indexes expire today, leading investors to adjust their holdings of some securities. Trading of S&P 500 stocks was in line with than the 30-day average at this time of day.

Banks, Industrials Financial and industrial companies increased at least 0.9 percent for the biggest gains among 10 groups in the S&P 500 today. JPMorgan Chase added 1.9 percent to $51.92, the highest level since June 2007. Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, rose 2.3 percent to $98.76, the most in more than five years. United Technologies Corp., maker of Pratt & Whitney jet engines and Otis elevators, advanced 1.6 percent to a record $96.70. Northrop Grumman climbed 3.5 percent to $81.78, an all-time high. The weapons maker said it will add $4 billion to an existing $1 billion share-repurchase program and retire 25 percent of its shares outstanding by 2015. Automaker shares jumped 2.5 percent as a group, the most among 24 industries in the S&P 500. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. surged 6.6 percent to $14.69 and Ford Motor Co. added 2.9 percent to $15.06. European Union car sales rose in April for the first time since September 2011, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said today.

Penney, Nordstrom J.C. Penney dropped 2.5 percent to $18.32 after its first-quarter loss widened as the department-store chain works to rebound from former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson’s failed makeover. CEO Myron Ullman, who took the position back from Johnson last month, has been increasing promotions to revive sales while pursuing a $1.75 billion loan. Nordstrom Inc. retreated 1 percent to $60.52 after the retailer posted first-quarter revenue that trailed analysts’ estimates and cut its sales forecast for the year. Brocade Communications Inc. slumped 4.2 percent to $5.50 after the maker of network equipment said it expects third-quarter adjusted earnings of 11 cents to 13 cents a share, trailing the average forecast of 15 cents by analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Autodesk Inc. tumbled 7.5 percent to $36.82 for the biggest decline in the S&P 500. The maker of engineering-design software said it sees full-year revenue growth of 3 percent, lower than its February forecast of 6 percent.