U.S. stock benchmarks kicked off trade on Tuesday in record territory, powered by better-than-expected, corporate quarterly results that have put the Dow within striking distance of a milestone at 22,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened firmly higher, up 0.4% at 21,985, the S&P 500 index climbed 0.3% at 2,477, near an intraday record at 2,484.04. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.4% at 6,375, putting it in line to close at a new record. Solid earnings have been at the heart of the recent uptrend. As of last Friday, 73% of the S&P 500 companies that had reported earnings posted sales numbers above estimates, according to FactSet. That puts the second quarter on track to mark the highest percentage of companies beating sales forecasts since FactSet began tracking data in 2008. In corporate news, iPhone maker and the world's biggest company by market value, Apple Inc. was set to report quarterly results after the close of Tuesday trade. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company can be a big influence on market sentiment and trade. On the economic front, consumer spending in June rose by the smallest amount in five months as income growth flat-lined, but lower gasoline prices also played a role.The personal-consumption expenditures index, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, was flat in June. What's more, the 12-month rate of inflation stood at 1.4%, down from 2.2% earlier in the year. Sluggish inflation is expected to decelerate the pace of the central bank's rate-increase efforts.
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