Dow Logs 4-Day Win Streak; IBM Falls 5%
Stocks squeezed out small gains Wednesday, with the Dow finishing higher for the fourth-straight session, lifted by a strong housing report, but tepid quarterly results from major tech companies weighed.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a gain of 5.22 points, or 0.04 percent, to close at 13, 557.00. IBM and Intel led the blue-chip laggards, while Alcoa rallied.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, dipped to end near 15.
Most key S&P sectors traded in positive territory, led by banks andtelecoms, while techs dragged.
"This is an impressive market—the bulls are clearly winning today, " said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners. "Two reasons: Bernanke and fight to quality—anytime there's doubt about global growth, emerging markets become unattractive and Treasurys give you nothing, U.S. equities become the best place to be." (Read More: Risk Is Back as Fund Managers Turn Bullish on Equities)
On the economic front, housing starts jumped 15 percent in September, soaring to its fastest rate since 2008 , according to the Commerce Department. Shares of homebuilders including Pulte and DR Horton rallied following the report.
"Housing has been getting better and that's been a bright spot, " said Landesman. "At the same time, the housing slump lasted two years longer than I'd expected, but the trend will hold."
Among earnings, Bank of America reported a breakeven quarter , exceeding expectations for a loss. But revenue was lighter than expected.
Pepsico posted higher-than-expected earnings , but revenue fell slightly short due to the stronger U.S. dollar.
Intel reported quarterly results that beat Wall Street's forecast but shares slid after the tech giant's outlook came in light as the personal computer industry wrestles with a shaky global economy and a shift by consumers toward tablets. In addition, at least 11 brokerages cut their price targets on the company.
Meanwhile, IBM posted a profit that topped expectations, though revenue fell short , sending shares sharply lower. SocGen and Janney Capital cut their rating on the firm, while BMO lowered its price target on the stock to $218 from $222. (Read More: Stocks That Stand Out Amid Tech Wreck)
AmEx and Ebay are among major companies scheduled to post earnings after the closing bell.
Among other techs, Apple slipped a day after the company announced it will host an event next Tuesday, where it is expected to unveil a smaller iPad and a smaller MacBook Pro with retina display.
Meanwhile, Best Buy is planning to price its own version of an Android tablet, dubbed "insignia Flex, " between $239 and $259 a unit, according to a Reuters report, in an aim to compete against Apple's iPad and Amazon.com's Kindle. The tablet is expected to be available exclusively at Best Buy starting November 11.
Cisco Systems edged lower after Cantor Fitzgerald downgraded the Dow component to "hold" from "buy" and cut its price target to $19.50 from $20.50, saying it sees recovery delayed by another one or two quarters.
European shares closed in positive territory , after Moody's kept its credit rating unchanged on Spain, in line with Standard & Poor's. Spain will likely seek a precautionary credit line of around 50 billion euros from the ECB, according to Reuters, which will trigger the central bank's bond-buying program.
Also on the economic front, weekly mortgage applications declined last week, but demand for purchase loans jumped to the highest level since June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators; Earnings from Morgan Stanley, Phillip Morris, Travelers, Union Pacific, Verizon, Fifth Third, Huntington Bancshares, KeyCorp, Nokia, Google, Microsoft, AMD, Capital One, Chipotle, E-Trade
FRIDAY: Existing home sales; Earnings from GE, McDonald's, Schlumberger, Honeywell, Edward Lifesciences
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