Pfizer Leads Dow Higher on Earnings Beat

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Pfizer shares posted big gains Tuesday after the biggest U.S. drug company unveiled better-than-expected quarterly profits, leading the Dow Industrials higher.

Today's Markets 

As of 3:20 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 76.9 points, or 0.56%, to 13960, the S&P 500 climbed 8.1 points, or 0.54%, to 1508 and the Nasdaq Composite traded flat at  3154.

The week got off to a lackluster start Monday, with the S&P 500 snapping its longest winning streak in eight years. Still, the broad-market index is up more than 5% for 2013 and only 4.2% off its record high.

Earnings season is in full swing. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), the biggest U.S. drugmaker, posted fourth-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street's expectations on the top and bottom lines ahead of the opening bell. Ford's (NYSE:F) quarterly profits and sales also topped estimates.

On the economic front, The Conference Board's gauge of U.S. consumer confidence tumbled to 58.6 in January -- the lowest level since November 2011 -- from an upwardly revised 66.7 in December. The index was expected to fall to 64 from an initially reported 65.1. This was the first reading since the passage of the fiscal cliff resolution early this year, and economists say the 2% across-the-board payroll tax hike could have contributed to the sudden lurch lower.

"The increase in the payroll tax has undoubtedly dampened consumers’ spirits and it may take a while for confidence to rebound and consumers to recover from their initial paycheck shock," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement.

The closely-watched S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas shows home prices slipped 0.1% in November from October on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Prices were expected to remain unchanged. The gauge jumped 5.5% from the same month in 2011, as expected. Recent data have pointed to substantial improvement in the housing market as it recovers from the depths of the 2008 crisis.

"The S&P Case-Shiller data are consistent with other housing data that show a broad-based recovery in housing activity and prices across the country," Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays, wrote in a note to clients.

The Federal Reserve also kicks off its two-day policy meeting on the day. The monetary policy decision is due from the central bank on Wednesday. Analysts expect the Fed to hold interest rates and the pace of quantitative easing steady.

Oil prices posted solid gains. The benchmark U.S. crude contract rose by a 88 cents, or 0.92%, to $97.32 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline climbed 0.76% to $2.957 a gallon. In metals, gold rose $8.00, or 0.48%, to $1,663 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.26% to 2737, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.1% to 6301 and the German DAX dipped 0.23% to 7185.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 climbed 0.39% to 10867 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.07% to 23655.