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Stocks gained again today as the market reacted to strong earnings reports from Microsoft and Amazon.com last night, and UPS (NYSE:UPS) this morning. The UPS report was, perhaps, the most important as the package delivery service is often seen as a bellwether for the global economy. The strong earnings were enough to push the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) up 61 points, or 0.4% as it approached its all-time high, while the S&P 500 hit yet another record, closing at 1,759.
The day's economic reports were mostly discouraging, as consumer confidence dropped to 73.2 from a previous reading of 75.2, below expectations of 74.5. Durable goods orders, excluding the transportation sector, also fell 0.1% in September, below expectations of a 0.3% gain. Factoring in transportation, orders grew 3.7%, beating estimates. The market seems to have convinced itself that the government shutdown, and weak jobs data, have taken the Fed taper off the table for the near term, giving traders little reason to sell, as long as upbeat earnings keep marching in.
The Dow's worst performer today was Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), falling 0.8% after releasing first-quarter earnings. The consumer goods giant delivered adjusted per-share earnings in line with estimates at $1.05, up 8% from a year ago on a constant currency basis. Revenue increased 2%, to $21.2 billion, slightly ahead of estimates at $21.04 billion, while sales increased 4%, when accounting for foreign currency. Volume was also up 4%, and P&G maintained its full-year guidance of organic-sales growth of 3%-4%, and core earnings-per-share growth of 5%-7%. The Tide-maker's report was perfectly acceptable, but Wall Street has been bearish on the stock lately as it struggles to find new growth channels. On a positive note, Procter & Gamble posted better sales than rival Unilever for the first time in three years.
UPS, the only other major company to report today, said it delivered more than 1 billion packages in its last quarter, an increase of 4.6%. UPS also beat earnings estimates by $0.01, posting an EPS of $1.16, up from $1.06 a year ago. Sales ticked up 3.4%, to $13.52 billion, just shy of estimates at $13.6 billion, primarily on increases in U.S. e-commerce shipments and European exports. Also cheering on the market was UPS's bullish holiday forecast, saying it expected a daily volume increase of 8%, partly because there were six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to last year. It also pointed out that the National Retail Federation was forecasting a 3.9% increase in holiday sales. Shares finished up 1.2%.
Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble and United Parcel Service. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.