U.S. stocks climb to new highs

NEW YORK (AP) – For stocks on Monday, the path of least resistance was up.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average both edged up to all-time highs on a day that was light on economic news and company releases.

Toll Brothers, a builder of luxury homes, rose after saying its revenue surged in the most recent reporting period. Dean Foods jumped after the dairy company reported a much smaller loss than expected for its third quarter and projected a profit for the current quarter.

Stocks are trading at record levels, having rebounded following a sharp slump at the beginning of October. Improving company earnings and signs that the U.S. economy remains solid, despite growth lagging overseas, are encouraging stock investors.

“What is there to not like?” said Karyn Cavanaugh, a senior market strategist at Voya Investment Management. “As we head into the end of the year, earnings projections for 2015 are looking strong.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.34 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,038.26. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 39.81 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,613.74. The Nasdaq composite climbed 19.08 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,651.62.

About 90 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have reported their third-quarter results, and their earnings are projected to rise at an average rate of 8.9 percent for the period, according to S&P Capital IQ data. That compares with growth of 4.9 percent in the same period a year ago, and 10.4 percent in the second quarter.

Earnings are also forecast to keep growing at a broadly similar pace in coming quarters.

The economy is also providing companies with a sound base. Reports last week showed that U.S. manufacturing continued to expand and hiring remained healthy.

On Monday, health care stocks rose the most of the ten sectors in the index. They climbed almost 1 percent, extending their gains for the year to 22 percent.