NEW YORK (Oct 23): Earnings from Caterpillar and 3M drove Wall Street higher on Thursday but stocks pared gains in late trading after reports that a New York hospital was running Ebola tests on a healthcare worker.
The day's advance put the S&P 500 at its highest level in two weeks as results from industrial bellwethers reassured investors that corporations can generate strong profits despite concerns about global growth.
Still, the S&P finished about 0.6 percent below its intraday high after news that a healthcare worker who returned to the United States from West Africa had a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms.
"The headline risk caused sellers to be more active. That subsided after about 20 minutes and the real impact won't be known until tomorrow morning," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. "It threw a little scare into the market."
Caterpillar Inc's profit beat forecasts and the machinery maker raised its full-year profit forecast. Shares of the Dow component jumped 5 percent to $99.27.
3M Co added 4.4 percent to $145.05. 3M's results were driven by U.S. sales and its CEO called the U.S. economy "improved."
The S&P industrial sector climbed 2.2 percent, the day's biggest advancing sector.
"If we're looking at headwinds like currency and slowing global growth, seeing multinationals like Caterpillar and 3M post solid beats gives us confidence that economic growth is holding on and probably better than the market is currently expecting," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 216.58 points, or 1.32 percent, to 16,677.9, the S&P 500 gained 23.71 points, or 1.23 percent, to 1,950.82 and the Nasdaq Composite added 69.95 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,452.79.
On the downside, AT&T Inc fell 2.4 percent to $33.66, a day after reporting weaker-than-expected revenue growth. Yelp Inc slumped 18.6 percent to $57.17 in heavy trading a day after its revenue outlook disappointed.
After the close, Amazon.com Inc's sales projections for the holiday quarter disappointed and results missed targets, sending shares 9 percent lower.
Despite those disappointments, this earnings season has largely been positive for companies. With more than a third of the S&P 500's results in, 69.5 percent have exceeded profit expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the long-term average of 63 percent.
New claims for U.S. unemployment benefits held below 300,000 for a sixth straight week last week, suggesting the labor market was shrugging off jitters over a slowing global economy.
NYSE advancers outnumbered decliners 2,391 to 700, for a 3.42-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,962 issues rose and 731 fell, for a 2.68-to-1 ratio.
The S&P 500 index posted 40 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite showed 57 new highs and 39 new lows.
About 7.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 8.2 billion October average, according to BATS Global Markets.