NEW YORK – U.S. stocks fluctuated, after the longest streak of weekly gains since February, as investors awaited retailer earnings reports to gauge the strength of consumer demand and the likelihood of cuts to monetary stimulus.
Transocean Ltd. added 3.8 percent after the offshore rig contractor agreed with investor Carl Icahn to propose a $3 per share dividend. ViroPharma Inc. jumped 26 percent after Shire Plc. bought the company for about $4.2 billion. Best Buy Co. rose 2.7 percent to $43.78 as a UBS AG analyst upgraded the stock. D.R. Horton Inc. slid 2.2 percent as homebuilder stocks dropped for a third day.
The S&P 500 added less than 1 point to 1,771.05 at 12:27 p.m. in New York, within one point of its record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 20.80 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,782.58, headed for a record close. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 20 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day. The U.S. bond market is closed because of the Veterans Day holiday.
“Today’s going to be very light because it’s a holiday for many people,” John Carey, a portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment Management who oversees $200 billion in assets globally, said by phone from Boston. “People will be watching over the next few weeks to see if the Fed does decide to begin tapering this year. If earnings continue trending higher the support will be there for better share prices.”
The S&P 500 added 0.5 percent last week for a fifth week of gains. Better-than-forecast data on jobs and growth indicated the economy is strong enough to withstand a reduction in Federal Reserve stimulus, even as consumer spending climbed last quarter at the slowest pace since 2011.
Corporate earnings that surpassed estimates and unprecedented monetary support from the Federal Reserve have propelled the S&P 500 higher by more than 160 percent from a March 2009 low.
Of the 447 S&P 500 companies that have released third- quarter profits so far, 75 percent have beaten analysts’ forecasts, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. Earnings per share for the companies on the gauge probably increased 4.7 percent in the third quarter, and will rise 6.2 percent in the fourth, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Macy’s Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. are among retail companies reporting earnings this week, while Home Depot Inc. posts results on Nov. 19.