US STOCKS-Wall St extends rally; financials, Apple lead

Last Updated: Mon, May 06, 2013 19:10 hrs

* Apple up more than 2 pct, boosts Nasdaq

* More upside momentum seen in equities: analysts

* Indexes: Dow up 0.04 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, May 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks inched higher on Monday, lifted by financials and Apple shares, as Wall Street extended a rally that pushed the Dow and S&P 500 to record highs last week.

Shares of MBIA jumped nearly 50 percent to $14.46 following a news report regarding a settlement of ongoing dispute with Bank of America. Bank of America shares were up 4 percent at $12.74. The S&P 500 financial gained 1.1 percent.

Apple shares were among the top gainers after Barclays raised its price target on the stock. Apple shares were up 2.3 percent at $460.33 and led the Nasdaq composite index and benchmark S&P 500 higher.

The gains follow a strong run in stocks since the start of the year. Accommodating monetary policies that have kept interest rates low as well as solid earnings have helped to keep the market up. The S&P 500 is up 13.5 percent since Dec. 31.

"Basically since the beginning of the year, the bulls have remained in control of this market," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

"As long as you continue to have decent earnings reports and support from the central banks, it will be hard to derail the market, at least in the short term."

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 6.36 points, or 0.04 percent, at 14,980.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.18 points, or 0.26 percent, at 1,618.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 14.40 points, or 0.43 percent, at 3,393.03.

Although weak economic data from the euro zone and China has caused concerns over the global growth outlook, Friday's stronger-than-expected U.S. payrolls report fueled the gains that took the indexes to record levels.

Humana Inc jumped 2.5 percent to $75.85 as one of S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers. JPMorgan upgraded the stock to "overweight."

But Johnson & Johnson shares were down 1 percent at $84.90, weighing on the blue-chip Dow average.

The U.S. Treasury said it will begin another round of sales of General Motors stock acquired during the government's bailout of the auto sector. GM stock was down 0.2 percent at $32.03 in midday trade.

Of the 404 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 68.3 percent have beaten earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, though only 46.3 percent have reported revenue above expectations. Over the past four quarters, 67 percent of companies beat on earnings and 52 percent beat revenue estimates.

Warren Buffett said on Monday low interest rates have made bonds "terrible" investments, but stocks are "reasonably priced," and he continues to shy away from sectors such as media where he cannot predict which will thrive in the long run.

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