Some positive news from the latest corporate earnings pulled the stock market out of the doldrums Wednesday.
At the end of trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up nearly 79 points, or almost 0.5 percent, to close at 16,985.6. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 9.1 points, or nearly 0.5 percent, to close at 1,972.8, and the Nasdaq composite closed up 27.6 points, or about 0.6 percent, at 4,419.
The market opened with gains and remained modestly higher throughout the day. Stocks hesitated briefly and then climbed higher after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest policy meeting in June.
The biggest gainer in the S&P 500 was Alcoa. The aluminum giant's earnings, which investors consider to be the official start of the quarterly corporate earnings reports, came in well above Wall Street's expectations. Alcoa earned $138 million, or 18 cents a share, compared with analysts' estimates of 12 cents a share, according to FactSet. Alcoa rose 84 cents, or 6 percent, to $15.69.
As companies begin reporting their second-quarter results, investors will be looking for signs that the strengthening U.S. economy has translated into higher sales and profits. Analysts expect earnings increased 6.6 percent in the three months through June compared with the previous year, according to S&P Capital IQ, a research firm.
Investors argue that with stocks trading near all-time highs, it's now up to companies to show whether these record high prices can be justified. "Stocks are not cheap, and we need to be assured that these companies' growth is going to continue," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist with Prudential Financial.