* New home sales fall in Dec. but 2012 sales stellar
* Procter & Gamble profit soars past expectations
* Exxon overtakes Apple in market cap
* Dow up 0.5 pct, S&P up 0.5 pct, Nasdaq up 0.6 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Jan 25 The S&P 500 index on Friday
closed above 1,500 for the first time in more than five years as
strong U.S. earnings reports, including Procter & Gamble's,
helped the benchmark extend its rally to eight days.
The winning streak is the longest in eight years and left
the S&P 500 about 4.1 percent away from its all-time closing
high of 1,565.15 on Oct. 9, 2007.
The equity market's strong start this year has been
attributed to solid corporate results, an agreement in
Washington to extend the government's borrowing power,
encouraging signs from the global economy and seasonal inflows
Procter & Gamble shares led the Dow and S&P higher
with a 4 percent gain to $73.25 after the world's top household
products maker's quarterly profit soared past expectations. The
company also raised its sales and earnings outlook for the
Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell in December but
rose in 2012 to the highest level since 2009, a sign the U.S.
housing market turned a corner last year.
"Economic data in the U.S. has been trending higher, albeit
modestly. Things are incrementally better," said Quincy Krosby,
market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.
"The market was able to move forward despite deterioration
in Apple and that's also a positive."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 70.65 points or
0.51 percent, to 13,895.98, the S&P 500 gained 8.14
points or 0.54 percent, to 1,502.96 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 19.33 points or 0.62 percent, to 3,149.71.
The S&P 500 closed at its highest since Dec. 10, 2007 and
the Dow ended at its highest since Oct. 31, 2007.
Apple shares dropped 2.4 percent to $439.88, and
the iPhone maker lost its coveted title as the largest U.S.
company by market capitalization to Exxon Mobil Corp.
Apple's market cap fell to $413 billion, down roughly $250
billion from its September peak. Apple's fall is about equal to
the entire value of Google Inc.
Adding to the bullish tone, German business morale improved
for a third consecutive month in January to its highest in more
than six months. In addition, European banks said they will
repay the European Central Bank much more than expected of the
loans the bank gave them during the crisis.
"Good news in credit markets helps set the stage for (more
investment in) riskier assets," Krosby said.
For the week, the Dow rose 1.8 percent, the S&P climbed 1.1
percent and the Nasdaq rose 0.5 percent. It was the fourth
straight week of gains for all three indexes.
Helping to lift the Nasdaq on Friday, Starbucks,
rose 4.1 percent to $56.81 after the coffee retailer reported
stronger-than-expected sales in the United States and Asia.
Netflix added 15.5 percent to $169.56, following
its massive 42.2 percent jump Thursday after it announced a
surprise jump in subscribers to its video streaming service.
Thomson Reuters data through Friday showed that of the 147
S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, 68 percent
exceeded expectations. Since 1994, 62 percent of companies have
topped expectations, while the average over the past four
quarters stands at 65 percent.
Halliburton Co shares jumped 5.1 percent to $39.72
after the world's second-largest oilfield services company
reported higher-than-expected earnings and sales for the fourth
About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock
Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average
during January 2012 of about 6.93 billion shares.
On the NYSE, more than three issues rose for every two that
fell and on Nasdaq five rose for every four decliners.