Wall St edges higher on Apple, Boeing strength; Fed in focus

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NEW YORK (Jan 29): US stock indexes edged higher on Wednesday, boosted by gains in Apple, Boeing and General Electric following their results, while investors assessed the economic damage of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak.

The Federal Reserve is also in focus as it is expected to release its monetary policy statement at 2pm ET.

With interest rates expected to remain on hold, market participants are keen to know the central bank's take on adjustments to its balance sheet and the impact of China's coronavirus outbreak on global growth.

In a busy week for earnings, Apple Inc gained 2.8% after the iPhone maker reported earnings for the holiday shopping quarter above analysts' expectations, even as it braced for more supply disruptions in virus-hit China.

Boeing Co rose 1.3% after the planemaker forecast nearly $19 billion in costs related to the grounding of its 737 MAX jets, smaller than what many analysts had expected.

Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc, set to report results after markets close, were up 0.9% and 1.7%, respectively.

"The US market is attempting to accommodate a series of tragic natural disasters overseas as well as the coronavirus outbreak in China," Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

"The good news is that the breadth of earnings and TP (target price) revisions over the past month and quarter is surprisingly strong," they said.

About 70% of the 143 companies on the S&P 500 index have topped estimates so far. Analysts are expecting earnings to be flat in the latest quarter, an improvement over a 0.6% decline estimated at the start of the season, according to Refinitiv data.

General Electric jumped 9.7% after the industrial conglomerate set higher cash target for 2020.

However, several companies warned of disruption to their operations due to the virus outbreak and a Chinese government economist was also quoted as saying the country's economic growth may drop to 5% or even lower.

Starbucks Corp dropped 2.7% after warning of a financial hit as it closed thousands of restaurants and adjusted operating hours in China.

At 11:42 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.36%, at 28,825.06. The S&P 500 gained 0.24% to 3,284.07 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.18% at 9,285.95.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc dropped 8.7% after the chipmaker forecast first-quarter revenue below analysts' estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.42-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.21-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 32 new 52-week highs and five new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 58 new highs and 43 new lows.