Stocks climb, led by gains in technology

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes rose in midday trading Wednesday after companies reported profits that were stronger than expected, if not strong. Technology stocks led the way following an encouraging report from Microsoft.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 12 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,176 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62, or 0.3 percent, to 18,621. The Nasdaq composite rose 54, or 1.1 percent, to 5,091.

CLOUD COVER: Microsoft surged $3.48, or 6.6 percent, to $56.58. The technology giant said it returned to a profit in its fiscal fourth quarter after reporting a loss a year earlier. Its earnings topped analysts’ expectations, and the company credited momentum in its cloud-computing business. Microsoft’s surge helped the technology sector rise 1.4 percent, much more than the rest of the market.

BIGGEST GAIN: Cintas was the top-performing stock in the S&P 500 after reporting quarterly results that beat Wall Street’s forecasts. The company, which provides uniforms, restroom supplies and other products for offices, surged $10.19, or 10.5 percent, to $107.61.

CLOSE BEHIND: Intuitive Surgical was the third-best performing stock in the S&P 500. Intuitive jumped $37.62, or 5.6 percent, to $709.52. The maker of robotic-assisted surgical systems reported revenue and earnings per share that both topped analysts’ expectations.

A LOW BAR: Analysts came into this earnings reporting season with low expectations, forecasting a roughly 5 percent drop for S&P 500 companies from a year earlier. That’s made it easier for companies to come in above forecasts.

Nearly two out of three companies so far this reporting season have come in above analysts’ profit expectations, according to S&P Global Markets Intelligence. That’s what usually happens, because analysts tend to lower their earnings forecasts for companies as each reporting season approaches.

Several reports on the U.S. economy have also come in better than expected in recent weeks, which has helped stock indexes reach record highs. The S&P 500 has jumped just over 8 percent since hitting a bottom on June 27 after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The Dow is on track to rise for a ninth straight day and is in the midst of its longest winning streak in three years.

NO FEAR: Calm in the markets meant less demand for gold and Treasurys, traditional go-to investments during periods of fear. The price of gold fell $14.30, or 1.1 percent, to $1,318.20 per ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, rose to 1.59 percent from 1.56 percent late Tuesday.

The VIX, an index that measures investors’ expectations of future volatility in the stock market, fell 3.6 percent and is close to its lowest level since 2014.

ENERGY TURN: The price of crude rose after a government report showed that the amount of oil supplies held in inventories dropped last week. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 12 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $44.77. It had been below $44 earlier in the day. Brent crude rose 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $47.16 in London.

Energy stocks were close to flat after being down as much as 1.1 percent earlier in the day.

OVERSEAS: European markets were mostly higher, while Asia’s day was mixed. Germany’s DAX rose 1.5 percent after Volkswagen reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. France’s CAC 40 climbed 1.1 percent, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.2 percent.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.1005 from $1.1015 late Tuesday, and the British pound rose to $1.3174 from $1.3093. The dollar rose to 106.69 Japanese yen from 106.09 yen.

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