* Ford rallies after results; AT&T, Dow Chemical lower
* Fewer companies than usual beat revenue expectations
* Federal Reserve seen keeping stimulus for several months
* Indexes up: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on
Thursday, continuing the market's recent upward trend as
expectations for steady accommodative monetary policy for the
foreseeable future offset a mixed batch of earnings and economic
The S&P 500 is on track for its tenth gain in the past 12
sessions, a rally largely driven by expectations the U.S.
Federal Reserve will continue its stimulus, which has propped up
the equity market and economy for much of the year. The S&P
closed at a record on Tuesday.
The prospect of continuing easy money was enough to offset
an earnings season marked by some weak outlooks and tepid
revenue growth. Dow Chemical Co, Xerox Corp and
AT&T Inc all fell following results on Wednesday, though
Ford Motor Co was a bright spot.
"Earnings haven't been a best-case or worst-case scenario,
but it doesn't look like the economy is firing on all
cylinders," said John Norris, managing director of wealth
management with Oakworth Capital Bank in Birmingham, Alabama.
"Still, while the gains we've seen might be illusory, given
the Fed, there's no reason to think we're on the cusp of a
pullback so long as the Fed stays put."
In another sign the economy wasn't firing on all cylinders,
initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell less than
expected in the latest week. The preliminary read of Markit's
Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index grew at its slowest pace
in a year this month and factory output contracted for the first
time since late 2009.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 67.75 points,
or 0.44 percent, at 15,481.08. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 2.83 points, or 0.16 percent, at 1,749.21. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 18.22 points, or 0.47
percent, at 3,925.30.
The S&P has risen about 1.5 percent since politicians ended
a stalemate to avoid a debt default and end a partial government
shutdown, culminating in a record high on Tuesday, but the
damage to the economy has led investors to expect the Fed to
delay scaling back its stimulus for several months.
Ford rose 1.2 percent to $17.74 after the automaker boosted
its full-year global earnings and margin outlook, helped by an
improved forecast in Europe and better-than-expected results in
the third quarter. Dow component 3M Co was flat at
$123.11 after its results.
PulteGroup Inc was the S&P's biggest gainer, jumping
7.3 percent to $17.90 after the homebuilder said a slowdown in
new home orders would be "short-lived." It lifted other names in
the sector, with D.R. Horton Inc up 3.2 percent to
$20.09 and Beazer Homes Inc up 1.8 percent to $19.47.
On the downside, both AT&T and Dow Chemical fell after
results missed expectations. AT&T, a Dow component, fell 1.3
percent to $34.81 while Dow Chemical lost 0.4 percent to $40.85
after its results. Xerox slumped 9.7 percent to $9.69 after a
Cameron International Corp was the S&P's biggest
percentage decliner, slumping 15 percent to $53.41. Its adjusted
earnings came in sharply below expectations.
With 41 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported, 67.6
percent have topped analyst expectations, according to Thomson
Reuters data, a rate that is above the historical average of 63
percent. However, only 52.7 percent have topped revenue
expectations, below the long-term average of 61 percent.
Visa Inc rose 1.9 percent to $202.74, the top boost to
the Dow after the credit card payment processor raised its