Stocks edge higher on mixed signs about economy

Investors are still building on a stock market rally even when the news isn't all great.

Stocks edged higher Monday after zigzagging in subdued trading on mixed economic and corporate earnings reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose only 15 points. But modest moves in the market's indicators belie larger forces at work: Investors aren't dumping stocks, even in the face of downbeat news.

Disappointing earnings from Verizon Communications, Aetna and Corning kept the market's gains in check, adding another pause to a powerful rally that has sent major indexes rocketing 11% in just two weeks.

RadioShack reported higher second-quarter earnings that beat forecasts, but mainly from cost-cutting — a theme that has become familiar this earnings season and has left many investors disappointed.

Stocks are steady in part because many investors aren't retreating for fear of missing another rally. Even earlier this month, when a spring rally was still stalled, investors likely would have looked to the news out Monday as reason to sell.

On the plus side, a government report showed new home sales posted the fastest increase in June in more than eight years as buyers jumped on reduced prices, low interest rates and a federal tax credit for first-time homeowners. That sent stocks of home builders surging.

Analysts said the market's modest moves were a good sign. Brian F. Reynolds, chief market strategist at WJB Capital Group, said investors were surprised by the strength of corporate earnings reports in the past two weeks.

"After a run of any direction stocks take a little break and people kind of catch their breath," Reynolds said. "I think that's especially true now because people were caught off guard. I think so many people were so bearish."

The Dow rose 15.27, or 0.2%, to 9,108.51, its first finish above the 9,100 mark since Nov. 5. The Dow has been up 10 of the past 11 trading days.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.92, or 0.3%, to 982.18, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.93, or 0.1%, to 1,967.89.

Nearly two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1 billion shares, essentially flat with Friday.

Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher, ahead of a busy week of Treasury auctions. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.73% from 3.66% late Friday.

In economic news, the Commerce Department said new home sales rose 11% in June to 384,000, beating analysts' estimates. The median price of $206,200 was down 12% from a year earlier and off nearly 6% from May. Last week, stocks got a lift from a better-than-expected rise in sales of existing homes.

Among companies posting results, Verizon's second-quarter earnings fell 21%. Cost reductions at the nation's largest wireless carrier failed to keep pace with falling revenue.

Aetna's profit skidded 28% on higher medical expenses in its commercial business, and the health insurer cut its profit forecast for the second time in two months. The stock fell 72 cents, or 2.7%, to $25.72.

Corning said its second-quarter earnings tumbled from results inflated by a big one-time gain a year ago. The stock fell 50 cents, or 2.9%, to $16.50.

RadioShack fell $1.06, or 6.6%, to $15 after cost-cutting drove profit growth and sales fell short of analysts' expectations.

Among homebuilders, Lennar rose 76 cents, or 6.8%, to $11.87 and Beazer Homes USA jumped 36 cents, or 13.9%, to $2.95.

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