Forecast-beating results from big U.S. corporations and expectations of more of the same easy money policies from the Federal Reserve lifted Wall Street on Wednesday, with stocks set to run higher after the S&P 500 moved above a technical resistance level.
However, gains were slight after indexes rose to around 3 year highs in the prior session and investors waited for the Fed's statement on monetary policy later on Wednesday.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely use his first-ever news conference on monetary policy to hammer home the case for a patient approach to withdrawing the central bank's support for the U.S. economy and point to low interest rates in the near future.
Companies continued the parade of encouraging results with names such as Whirlpool Corp , Corning Inc , and Baker Hughes Inc trumping Wall Street's profit expectations. So far about three-quarters of the S&P 500 companies which have reported results have beaten forecasts.
Earnings are coming in very, very nicely, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York. The valuation of the market is very, very attractive ... it's hard for me to be bearish.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 4.32 points, or 0.03 percent, at 12,599.69. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 1.13 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,348.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 5.81 points, or 0.20 percent, at 2,853.35.
Whirlpool, the world's largest appliance maker, trumped quarterly profit and sales estimates on cost controls and improving sales in most markets. The shares rose 3.4 percent to $90.80.
Baker Hughes Inc's shares rose 6 percent to $78.44. First-quarter results topped Wall Street estimates as new U.S. oil resources attracted a rush to drill in the most important market for the No. 3 oilfield services company in the world.
Corning Inc's quarterly profit beat Wall Street expectations, and it said the earthquake in Japan would only affect its business until the second quarter, sending shares up more than nearly 6 percent to $21.78.
The Federal Open Market Committee will release a statement on interest rate policy at 12:30 p.m. (1630 GMT). In a Reuters poll, dealers expect the fed funds rate will remain in the 0.0 percent to 0.25 percent range. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold media briefing at 2:15 p.m. (1815 GMT).
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)