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Stocks end with gains; Nasdaq hits closing record

A Wall Street sign adjacent to the New

A Wall Street sign adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan on Oct. 2, 2014. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks rose toward records Wednesday with the Nasdaq composite index at the highest closing level since 2000, as technology shares jumped and Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald's Corp. rallied after reporting earnings.

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 88.7 points, about 0.5 percent, to 18,038.3. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 10.7 points, about 0.5 percent, at nearly 2,108. The Nasdaq was added 21.1 points, about 0.4 percent, at 5,035.2.

After gaining through the day, benchmark U.S. crude slipped 31 cents to $56.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Coca-Cola jumped 1.3 percent as it enticed consumers to pay more for its drinks during the quarter. Coca-Cola shares close up 53 cents at $41.31. McDonald's soared 3.1 percent as chief executive Steve Easterbrook promised to give details of his turnaround plan next month. Shares ended trading up $2.97 at $97.84. Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc., the world's biggest payments networks, surged the most since October on prospects for business in China.

"Earnings are coming in better than expected so far, so the dire consequences that were predicted aren't quite there," analyst Mark Kepner, an equity trader at Themis Trading LLC, in Chatham, New Jersey, said via phone. "We keep getting up to these levels in the market and it seems like we can't penetrate higher, it tends to fall back a little bit.

It's going to take something pretty good to get us over this hump and earnings may be what we need," he said.

More than 140 companies in the S&P 500 are posting earnings this week. Of the companies that have reported so far, 78 percent beat profit projections and 48 percent topped sales estimates.

While analysts predict an earnings slump through September, they have moderated how steep that will be. They now forecast first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies will drop 4.3 percent, better than April 10 estimates for a 5.6 percent decline.

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