Confident chat about corporate profits scheduled to be reported later this week helped lift stock prices today, but hope for a real rally was undercut by another jump in crude oil prices.
Lead by General Motors Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Johnson & Johnson Inc., about three dozen companies in the Standard & Poors 500 stock index plan to release their quarterly results over the next few days. Based on hints the reporting companies have given and analysts overall assessment of how the quarter went, Wall Street is counting on those companies to deliver strong numbers.
For example, Citigroup shares climbed today based on a survey of analysts following the company, who are predicting the nation's biggest bank will handily beat its announced profit targets.
But the enthusiasm generated by earnings prospects were dampened by developments in the crude oil market, where prices hit a new high for the fifth day in a row.
The pattern repeated what has been happening most days on the New York Mercantile Exchange: crude oil jumps to another eye-popping price based on worries about tightening supplies, then pulls back a little before the close of trading -- but not enough to avoid setting another new price peak.
Crude closed up 33 cents at $53.64 cents after today's update on the damage done by Hurricane Ivan. Petroleum production from off-shore wells in the Gulf of Mexico is still running more than 25 percent below what it was before Ivan struck and it will be next year before some of the damaged rigs are back in business, government officials said.
Since Ivan first began to menace the Caribbean Sept. 8, crude oil has climbed 26 percent.
Even last weekend's Tropical Storm Matthew, which was too weak to generate much attention except on the Weather Channel, disrupted repairs and oil shipments from the Gulf.
Crude oil prices have been climbing for so long that some traders believe the stock market has fully factored their economic impact into prices -- which have been stock in a narrow trading range for months. The contrary view is that the market could still suffer if consumer and business spending are further pinched as price continue to rise.
In today's trading the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 27 points to 10081.97. The Standard & Poors 500 stock index picked up two points to 1124.39. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index added nine, closing at 1928.76.