Tepid employment data stokes Fed stimulus hopes

By Steve Rothwell

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22 2013 11:17 a.m. MDT

Traders Richard Scardino, left, and Luigi Muccitelli work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The prospect of more economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index further into record territory Tuesday.

Whirlpool, Delta Air Lines and Kimberly-Clark rose sharply after reporting higher earnings.

The U.S. economy added 148,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department said. That suggests employers held back on hiring before a 16-day partial government shutdown began Oct. 1. Economist surveyed by data provider FactSet had predicted 180,000 jobs would be added.

September's job report was delayed 2 ½ weeks because of the shutdown, which may have further depressed economic growth and hiring. Analysts are also expecting the coming October's job report to be weak because of the impact of the shutdown and that means the Fed is unlikely to stop its stimulus effort anytime soon.

"We've probably got another relatively soft report ahead of us," said Jeff Kleintop, Chief Market Strategist for LPL Financial. "That's likely to keep the Fed on hold for some time and the market seems to like that."

The Federal Reserve has been buying $85 billion of bonds a month to keep long-term interest rates low and spur economic growth. The central bank's stimulus has been a key support for a 4 ½-year rally in stocks.

The S&P 500 index rose six points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,750 as of 12:58 p.m. Eastern Time. The index is trading at a record level, after rebounding from a slump before lawmakers reached a deal last week to end the government shutdown and avert a potential default on U.S. debt.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 35 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,427. The Nasdaq composite fell a point to 3,919.

Investors are also following company earnings for the third quarter.

S&P 500 companies are forecast to report average earnings growth of 3.2 percent for the July-to-September period, according to the latest estimate from S&P Capital IQ. That would be the slowest rate of growth since the third quarter a year ago.

While growth has slowed, about two-thirds of companies are reporting earnings that surpass the estimates of Wall Street analysts.

"So far, the bottom line earnings are beating the reduced expectations," said Darrell Cronk, a regional Chief Investment Officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. "The revenue is still disappointing a little bit on the top side."

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.53 percent from 2.60 percent, its lowest level since late July. The yield on the note has fallen as traders have pared back their expectations for the start of Fed easing.

The yields on long-term Treasury notes are used to set the rates on consumer loans such as mortgages. Falling rates should help the housing sector by keeping the cost of home financing low.

The drop in yields "is very much supportive for the mortgage markets," said Anastasia Amoroso, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. "That is definitely a tailwind for the housing market and the consumer."

Stocks of homebuilders rose as the yield on the 10-year note dropped. K.B. Home rose 54 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $17.10. D.R. Horton climbed 43 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $19.10.

The housing sector rebounded after a slump Monday on a report showed that Americans bought fewer previously occupied homes in September than the previous month, held back by higher mortgage rates and rising prices.

In commodities trading, the price of crude oil fell 84 cents to $99.85 a barrel as recent data indicated there is plenty of supply to meet current demand. The price of gold rose $25.10, or 1.9 percent, to $1,341.20 an ounce.

Among stocks making big moves:

— Whirlpool rose $15.46, or 11.8 percent, to $146.40 after the company said its third-quarter net income more than doubled, benefiting from some tax credits as consumer demand for its appliances continues to build amid the housing recovery.

— Delta Air Lines rose 89 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $25.59. The airline made more than a billion dollars in the third quarter as more passengers paid a little bit extra to fly. Delta also said it was seeing strong holiday bookings.

— Kimberly-Clark rose $2.85, or 2.9 percent, to $101.70 after the maker of Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers said its third-quarter net income rose 6 percent.

— Coach fell $4.20, or 7.7 percent, to $49.99 after the maker of luxury handbags and accessories said its net income fell 2 percent in its fiscal first quarter as the company dealt with weaker sales in North America. The earnings fell short of analysts' expectations.

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