Oct. 28 - Summary: Apple sales and profits beat forecasts; Wall Street little changed but S&P 500 at lifetime high as pending home sales, factory data point to sluggish economy. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Wall Street quietly moves up to a record high with earnings in view and a Federal Reserve meeting later in the week. The S&P 500 barely set a lifetime high at 1762 with stock trading starting the week in the narrowest of trading ranges. After the bell, Apple posted a drop in profits that was not as big as feared; revenues, however, were up more than expected. iPhone shipments hit a record, coming in at the low end of analysts' forecasts, while iPad sales were weaker than the consensus- but slightly above the same time last year. The stock sold off following the results after trading up during the regular session. More on earnings in a few seconds, but first: Two pillars of the economic revival showing cracks. Signed contract for home purchases tumbled in September, making for the first time pending home sales failed to top year ago levels in more than two years. The National Association of Realtors says a rise in home prices coupled with a rise in interest rates is behind the biggest drop in future sales in nearly 3-1/2 years. Meanwhile, manufacturing output barely moved the needle last month in a separate reading. But Aneta Markowska of Societe Generale thinks the U.S. economy is already bouncing back. SOUNDBITE ANETA MARKOWSKA, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, SOCIETE GENERAL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Going into the shutdown the anticipation was that the data would be quite weak. So far it's been quite mixed but third quarter GDP is actually tracking between 2 and 2-1/2 percent, which is much better than some of the fears, and just two weeks ago we were tracking between 1-1/2 and 2 percent, so the data that actually feeds into the GDP figures has been a little bit better than expected." Back to earnings.. Burger King beat profit targets, but revenues dropped significantly as the company shifts ownership to franchisees. Global sales at stores opened at least a year were up less than a full percent, similar to what we saw at rival McDonald's. Shares of Burger King jumped nearly 6 percent. Drugmaker Merck exceeded forecasts but slower sales of diabetes treatment Januvia could be a sign of a future drag. Januvia is currently Merck's top selling medicine. European shares mostly down for the day, but barely, as investors wait to see what U.S. data will mean for the global economy.