Stocks climbed for the fourth business day in a row as traders responded to improving corporate profits and a batch of stock buybacks intended to boost share prices.

The four-day run, Wall Street's best streak in more than a month, brought a new round of predictions that stocks will finish the year with strong gains.

Even in years when the market is down, stocks usually go up in the fourth quarter, proclaimed the bulls.

Those confident predictions, however, were accompanied by warnings that economic growth is likely to slow next year as the Federal Reserve pushes up interest rates.

Stock buyers also were cheered by falling prices for crude oil and heating oil, which dropped to three-month lows. Down more than a dollar a barrel, crude oil closed at $59.47 -- finally falling below the scary $60-a-barrel level.

Because of unseasonably warm weather, consumption of heating oil and natural gas in the Northeast is running well below normal for this time of year. That temporary lack of demand is pulling down prices.

Oil stocks fell today, offsetting gains in other sectors of the market, but all the familiar indexes moved higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 55 points to 10,586.23.

The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index picked up 9 points, closing at 2,178.24.

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index advanced 3 points to 1,222.81.

Roughly 80 percent of the S&P 500 companies have reported third-quarter earnings, with the vast majority doing better than expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

By Zacks's count, 279 firms delivered better than expected profits and just 89 fell short of analysts' estimates.

Also encouraging buyers today were announcements that several big firms intend to buy back more of their shares.

Among those doing buybacks: TXU, the biggest power company in Texas; Qualcomm Inc., the cell phone maker; and Northrop Grumman Corp., the defense contractor.