An index of consumer confidence rose to 65.4 in April from a revised 63.8 in March, the Conference Board said Tuesday. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected confidence would rise to 64.5 from a previous reading for 63.4.
According to the survey, more consumers see the labor market improving, and fewer expect to see rising inflation.
Ford gained after beating expectations with its best first-quarter profit in 13 years,driven by strong sales in its home market and demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
3M also gained after delivering better-than-expected results, thanks to emerging market sales. The industrial conglomerate also raised its profit forecast for the year.
United Parcel Services rose after also beating analyst expectations and raising its forecast. Gains from overseas salesoffset higher fuel costs for the shipping company.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola slumped after its first quarter earnings fell short of analysts' estimates. Coke blamed the disasters in Japan for reducing revenue.
And Coach fell slightly despite a stronger than expected quarterly profits thanks to rising sales in North America. But the upscale retailer said the disasters in Japan would hurt results going forward.
Under Armour , meanwhile, sank despite a 36 percent jump in net revenues, and an increase in net income, as investors focused on a 68 percent increase in inventory.
Netflix fell sharply lower Tuesday after delivering a disappointing outlookafter the bell on Monday. Janney Capital Markets cut its rating for the online movie rental company to "sell," but at least six brokerages raised their price targets for the stock.
IBM meanwhile, rose to a 52-week high after its board approved a 15 percent boost in its quarterly cash dividend, and authorized an $8 billion stock buyback.
Humana , meanwhile, jumped after saying its first quarter earnings would be better than forecast, and announcing a dividend of 25 cents a share payable July 28. The health and supplemental benefits company, that is a key Medicare supplier, also will increase its share repurchase program to $1 billion by 2013.
Prices for gold and silver tumbled after hitting records. Silver fell more than 4 percent, while gold slipped back to $1,500 an ounce.
In economic news, U.S. single-family home prices fellfor the eighth month in a row, according the S&P/Case Shiller composite index. A composite index of 20 metropolitan areas fell 0.2 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis from January; the index fell 3.3 percent year-over-year.
Oil prices gained slightly on Tuesday. London Brent crude rose above $124 a barrel, while U.S. light crude rose above $112.
Investors also have their eyes on the unfolding events in Syria, where a violent crackdown on protesters by the government of President Basha al-Assad prompted the White House to consider sanctions. Meanwhile, fighting continued in Libya.
On Tap This Week:
TUESDAY: Consumer confidence, 2-year Treasury note auction; earnings after-the-bell from Amazon.com, Broadcom, Dreamworks, and Western Union.
WEDNESDAY: Durable goods, oil inventories, 5-year Treasury note auction; earnings before-the-bell from Boeing, BP, ConocoPhillips, Barrick Gold, Corning, Credit Suisse, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and after-the-bell from eBay, Starbucks, Allstate, Baidu, Citrix, Flowserve, and Norfolk Southern.
THURSDAY: GDP, jobless claims, pending home sales, 7-year Treasury note auction; earning before-the-bell from AstraZeneca, Deutsche Bank, Exxon Mobil, PepsiCo, P&G, Royal Dutch Shell, Sanofi-Aventis, Bristol Myers, Discovery Communications, Dow Chemical, Medco Health, Motorola Solutions, Occidental Petroleum, Pulte Group, Raytheon, Sprint Nextel, Starwood, Thomson Reuters, Time Warner Cable, and Viacom, and after-the-bell from Microsoft, Cliffs Natural Resources, and Motorola Mobility.
FRIDAY: Personal income, personal spending, Chicago PMI, Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment; earnings before-the-bell from Caterpillar, Chevron, Merck, DR Horton, Pitney Bowes, and Weyerhaeuser.
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