* S&P 500 rallies for an eighth straight day
* New home sales fall in December
* Procter & Gamble profit improves
* ExxonMobil overtakes Apple in market cap
* Indexes up: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 500 0.39 pct, Nasdaq 0.46 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday as
strong Procter & Gamble Co's earnings trumped weak housing
numbers and helped carry the Standard & Poor's 500 index higher
toward its longest winning streak in more than eight years.
Procter & Gamble shares rose 3.9 percent to $73.15
and gave the biggest boost to both the Dow and S&P 500 after the
world's top household products maker's quarterly profit soared
past expectations. The company also raised its sales and
earnings outlook for the fiscal year.
But the stock market's gains were curbed after economic data
showed new U.S. single-family home sales fell in December,
although expectations for a continued housing sector recovery
remain intact. The PHLX housing sector index edged up
Apple Inc dropped 2.1 percent to $441.24. The stock
of the iPhone maker has dropped more than 17 percent since the
start of the year on growth concerns. Friday's decline knocked
the tech giant from its perch as the most valuable U.S. company,
making it No. 2 after ExxonMobil Corp.
Helping to lift the Nasdaq index, Starbucks Corp,
rose 4.3 percent to $56.94 after the coffee retailer reported
stronger-than-expected sales in the United States and Asia.
The benchmark S&P 500 index is up 5.2 percent so far in
January. The equity market's strong start this year has been
attributed to solid corporate results, an agreement in
Washington to extend the government's borrowing power,
encouraging signs from the global economy and seasonal inflows
Those factors helped the S&P 500 rally for a seventh day on
Thursday to reach a five-year peak. But the index has struggled
to convincingly climb above 1,500, a level it surpassed briefly
on Thursday for the first time since December 2007.
"It looks like we are encountering a little short-term
resistance. The market always likes whole numbers and 1,500
seems like as good as any," said Doug Foreman, co-chief
investment officer at Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment
Management in Los Angeles.
"The earnings are coming in pretty good overall.
Expectations had been pretty low for the quarter given the
'fiscal cliff' concerns, etc., so some of the stocks are acting
pretty well even with numbers that are a little bit better than
people had feared."
If the S&P 500 rises for an eighth day on Friday, it will be
its longest winning streak since late 2004, when it rallied for
nine straight days.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 55.58 points,
or 0.40 percent, to 13,880.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
climbed 5.81 points, or 0.39 percent, to 1,500.63. The
Nasdaq Composite Index rose 14.49 points, or 0.46
percent, to 3,144.88.
Honeywell International Inc posted fourth-quarter
earnings just above Wall Street's estimates, reflecting the
diversified U.S. manufacturer's campaign to boost profit margins
in the face of sluggish sales growth. Honeywell's stock edged up
0.1 percent to $68.33.
The initial portion of earnings season has been encouraging
relative to recent expectations. Overall, S&P 500 fourth-quarter
earnings growth is on track for a 2.9 percent rise, up from the
forecast of a 1.9 percent gain at the start of the earnings
season but well below the 9.9 percent increase in an Oct. 1
Thomson Reuters data through Friday showed that of the 147
S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 68 percent
exceeded expectations. Since 1994, 62 percent of companies have
topped expectations, while the average over the past four
quarters stands at 65 percent.
Halliburton Co shares jumped 5.1 percent to $39.72
after the world's second-largest oilfield services company
reported higher-than-expected earnings and sales for the fourth
quarter. Strong international drilling activity offset a
slowdown in onshore North America work, Halliburton said.