Stocks advance, pushing Dow toward 14,000


NEW YORK — Pfizer helped keep the stock market rally alive Tuesday. The drugmaker’s stock gained after posting strong earnings, pushing the Dow closer to 14,000.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 73 points to close at 13,954.42 points, ending higher for the seventh day in eight. The Standard and Poor’s 500 also rose, adding eight points to 1,507.84 points. The Nasdaq composite dropped less than a point to 3,153.66.

The January rally looked as if it was running out of steam Monday as stocks pulled back from their highs, but Tuesday they resumed their ascent toward record levels. Demand was bolstered at the start of the year after lawmakers reached a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and was sustained by reports that have added to evidence showing the U.S. housing market is recovering and the jobs market is slowly healing.

The Dow is 6.5 percent higher this month and the S&P 500 is up 5.7 percent. Both indexes are at their highest levels in more than five years.

Pfizer was the biggest gainer in the Dow, advancing 86 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $27.70 after the company said its fourth-quarter profit more than quadrupled because of a $4.8 billion gain from selling its nutrition business and despite competition from generic drugs hurting sales.

Homebuilder D.R. Horton gained $2.51, or 11.8 percent, to $23.82 after it said net income more than doubled as the housing recovery took hold. Improving home prices and better sales bolstered profits.

“The earnings season is not stellar, it’s not gangbusters, but it’s better than last quarter,” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential.

Currently, analysts expect fourth-quarter earnings for 2012 to increase by an average of 4.7 percent for S&P 500 companies, according to the latest data from S&P Capital IQ. That’s an improvement on the previous quarter when profit grew by 2.4 percent.

Valero Energy, a refinery operator, was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500. The company’s stock climbed $4.96, or 13 percent, to $43.77 after the company said its fourth-quarter profit soared on higher refining margins, as it swapped out foreign crude for cheaper domestic oil.

Investor optimism was checked by a report that showed U.S. consumer confidence sank in January to the lowest level in more than a year as Americans fretted about the economic outlook and higher Social Security taxes. The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index dropped to 58.6 in January, down from a reading of 66.7 in December.

Stocks also failed to get much of a lift from a report published before the market opened that showed the U.S. housing market is sustaining its recovery.