Stocks bobbed and weaved into record high territory as the beginning of the second-quarter earnings reporting season injected some uncertainty into the market.
After trading in a narrow range for much of the session, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 52.24 at 11,187.36. That topped its previous record of 11,139.24, set last Friday.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index and the Nasdaq composite index also set records, registering modest gains after shifting in and out of positive territory throughout the day. The S&P rose 7.74, to 1395.86, and the Nasdaq rose 6.31, to 2743.09.
Wall Street analysts expect mostly robust earnings reports from U.S. companies, whose profits continue to grow along with the nation's economy. Analysts surveyed by First Call Corp. anticipate earnings for the companies on the S&P 500 list to rise 11.4 percent for the second quarter.
But with market indexes at record levels, analysts say investors may punish any companies that miss or merely meet published estimates.
"The market is waiting to sink its teeth into some solid numbers," said Alan Ackerman, senior vice president at Fahnestock & Co. "Having moved up sharply last week, the market is just marking time until we see exactly what these second-quarter numbers look like."
Companies offered a glimpse of those numbers today, and the results were mixed.
Waste Management's stock plunged 19-9/16, to 34, after the company said it expects to miss Wall Street estimates by as much as 12 cents per share. It blamed a $250 million shortfall in North American revenue, prompting downgrades from several analysts who criticized the company's management.
Alcoa, meanwhile, proved that in the current market, good news isn't always enough. Alcoa fell 2 3/8, to 61 3/8, after reporting earnings of 64 cents per share, a penny ahead of expectations. Alcoa, considered a cyclical stock that thrives in times of economic growth, has been the strongest gainer among Dow components so far this year, and analysts said investors may be reluctant to bid it higher.
By late afternoon, the Dow picked up strength from growing speculation that General Electric will beat Wall Street earnings estimate of 84 cents per share. GE's stock rose 3-15/16, to 117 7/8, accounting for much of the Dow's gain.
Internet search giant Yahoo tumbled 8-1/16, to 167-1/16, amid wild speculation over its after-hours earnings report. Wall Street called for earnings of 8 cents per share, but traders said Yahoo sank amid rumors that it might miss the "whisper number" of 9 cents per share. Whisper numbers are unofficial forecasts circulated among traders and on Internet trading sites. Ultimately, Yahoo said it earned 11 cents a share, and its stock rebounded to 172 1/2 in after-hours trading on Instinet.
Some analysts believe that last week's 586.68-point gain in the Dow may have left little room to extend the long run of U.S. equities.
The initial public offering of Musicmaker.com benefited from renewed interest in new Internet stocks. The Web-based company, which lets customers create customized compact discs, was priced at 14 and closed at 24.