U.S. stocks were little changed, following the biggest rally since August for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as optimism about third-quarter earnings offset concern about Europe’s debt crisis.
Alcoa Inc. (AA), the biggest U.S. aluminum producer, climbed 2.1 percent ahead of its quarterly results today. Apple Inc. and Mosaic Co. added at least 2.5 percent to pace gains in technology and raw material producers. Stocks fell earlier today after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the debt crisis threatens the financial system.
The S&P 500 gained 0.1 percent to 1,195.47 at 10:58 a.m. New York time, after falling as much as 0.6 percent. The gauge rose 3.4 percent yesterday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,410.32 today.
“The markets have shrugged off some of the pessimism with Europe,” Peter Tuz, who helps manage about $800 million as president of Chase Investment Counsel Corp. in Charlottesville, Virginia, said in a telephone interview. “There’s a bit of catch-up going on. We’re seeing a recovery in groups that have really taken it on the chin. Beginning with Alcoa today, only time will tell if earnings won’t be quite as bad as we all feared.”
The S&P 500 last week rose from the threshold of a bear market on optimism Europe will tame its debt crisis and after American economic data improved. The measure was up 5.6 percent this month through yesterday as gains were led by commodity, consumer discretionary and industrial shares. Before October, the index had fallen for five straight months amid concern Europe’s debt crisis would slow down the global economy.
Alcoa gained 2.5 percent to $10.34. It is the first company of the Dow to report results for the third quarter. Earnings per share for the S&P 500, excluding financial companies, rose 14 percent in the third quarter, the smallest gain since the end of 2009, analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg show.
Equities fell earlier on Trichet’s comments. “Sovereign stress has moved from smaller economies to some of the larger countries,” Trichet told European lawmakers in Brussels today. “The crisis is systemic and must be tackled decisively.”
The message comes as Slovakian lawmakers vote on the euro region’s retooled bailout fund. Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Miklos said lawmakers should back the European Financial Stability Facility, the euro region’s enhanced bailout fund, this week. He was speaking to Parliament today, where lawmakers were expected to reject the EFSF bill, which was tied to a no- confidence vote against Prime Minister Iveta Radicova.