Closing Update: Renewed Optimism Carries Stocks to Fresh Gains; Most Sectors Higher

Stocks closed broadly higher today, with U.S. equities rising following strong advances in the European and Asian markets. Several mid-tier economic reports released today also helped contribute to the optimistic tone along with carry-over momentum from the first earnings report of the season last night.

Shares of Alcoa Inc ( AA ) -- traditionally the first of the S&P 500 companies to report its quarterly results -- were up despite posting its first quarterly loss since 2009. The company lost 3 cents a share in the quarter, in line with analysts' estimates. But revenues of $5.99 billion beat Street expectations and Alcoa also gave a positive outlook on global demand over the rest of the year for aluminum.

In economic indicators released today, small-business optimism rose in December for the fourth consecutive month, according to the National Federation of Independent Business in its monthly survey. Optimism rose 1.8 points, settling at 93.8 last month and representing a 5.7-point gain since September. Despite the extended advance, the industry group cautioned that the total reading remains in recession territory.

Also, inventories at U.S. wholesalers rose 0.1% in November, following a revised 1.2% gain in October, the Commerce Department reported today. Economists had projected a 0.5% rise, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Sales climbed 0.6% in November, the agency said.

There were 3.2 million job openings on the last business day of November, unchanged from the end of October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The hires rate was 3.2% and the separations rate was 3.0%, also little changed over the month although the job openings rate has trended upward since the end of the recession in June 2009.

In company news:

Tiffany & Co. ( TIF ) was down by double digits today after cutting its full-year profit outlook after holiday season sales of fine jewelry slowed "markedly" in the U.S. and Europe. Adjusted profit for the 12 months ended Jan. 31 likely will now be in a range between $3.60 to $3.65 per share, down from a previous guidance looking for as much as $3.80 a share.

DSW ( DSW ) was extending its rally near the close today after raising its 2011 EPS view to a range of $2.96 to $2.99 per share, up from a previous range of $2.90 to $2.95 per share and ahead of the analyst consensus of $2.94 per share.

Yum! Brands ( YUM ) also was gaining today amid reports the company is set to add as many as 100 new KFC outlets on the African continent this year. Pizza Hut, another Yum brand, expects to enter South Africa this year or next, according to MarketWatch.

Commodities were higher. February gold contracts and crude oil contracts advanced. Futures of frozen orange juice concentrate soared earlier today after small amounts of fungicide were found in the beverage.

Here's where markets stand at the close:

-DJIA up 69.78 (+0.56%) to 12,462.47

-S&P up 11.38 (+0.89%) to 1,292.08

-Nasdaq up 25.94 (+0.97%) to 2,702.50


Nikkei up 0.4%.

Hang Seng up 0.7%.

Shanghai Composite up 2.7%.

FTSE-100 up 1.5%.


(+) LULU, Raises Q4 EPS Guidance TO $0.47-$0.49 VS consensus $0.42.

(+) BWA, Expects 2012 earnings of $5.35 to $5.65 per share, above Street.

(+) FRAN, Holiday Comps rise 14%, net sales up 53%; boosts Q4 EPS.


(-) HMA, General counsel resigns.

(-) WBMD, Warns 2012 profit will be "significantly lower"; Tables merger talks.

(-) PHH, Slates $150M convertible note offering, explores liquidity plan.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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