Tech, materials stocks push Wall St higher

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Expectations for profit growth in the latest quarter are low as companies struggled with a weak global economy. Earnings at S&P 500 companies are expected to have declined 7.7 percent on average in the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Alcoa, seen as the unofficial start to quarterly earnings season, will post results after the market closes. The company’s (AA.N) shares were up 3.3 percent at $9.62.

Big bank earnings are also on the cards through the week, starting with JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) on Wednesday.

Oil, which has been a big influence on the stock market this year, was higher ahead of next Sunday’s meeting by producers aimed at freezing output. [O/R]

“(The market) is taking its cues from some of the overseas markets, which are getting a bit of a reprieve,” said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank’s Private Client Reserve in New York.

Wiegand, however, cautioned that better-than-expected earnings reports could prompt central bank intervention again.

“We are likely to remain in a somewhat frustrating environment for both bulls and bears, where we’re just not getting data that’s materially supportive of either position,” he said.

The dollar pared losses after hitting 17-month lows against the yen on Monday, as Japan again warned that it could intervene in the market to weaken its currency.

At 10:58 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 68.14 points, or 0.39 percent, at 17,645.1, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 7.3 points, or 0.36 percent, at 2,054.9 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 26.33 points, or 0.54 percent, at 4,877.02.

Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.68 percent rise in the materials sector .SPLRCM. Technology .SPLRCT was up 0.68 percent.

Apple (AAPL.O) rose 1.5 percent and gave the biggest boost to all three major indexes.

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Monday to discuss the economy and Wall Street reform.

Yahoo (YHOO.O) shares were up 1.5 percent at $36.61 after the parent company of Britain’s Daily Mail said it was in talks with potential partners to mount a bid for the company’s Internet assets.

Seagate (STX.O) rose 7 percent to $34.55 and Western Digital (WDC.O) was up 4.5 percent at $45.04 after Cowen started coverage on the stocks with “market perform” ratings.

National Oilwell Varco (NOV.N) dropped 5.5 percent to $27.51 after the oilfield equipment maker said it would cut its quarterly dividend.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,329 to 569. On the Nasdaq, 1,834 issues rose and 785 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 20 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and 22 new lows.

(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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