While you were sleeping: Coca-Cola beats estimates

Wall Street advanced, spearheaded by gains in shares of Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson after both companies reported quarterly results that surpassed expectations, bolstering confidence about the outlook.

Still, the escalating tension in Ukraine remained a worry, limiting gains. Ukraine is on the brink of civil war and "that's scary," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting with his counterparts from Belarus and Kazakhstan, Bloomberg News reported. Ukraine military forces retook control of an airport in the eastern part of the region earlier today.

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.38 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.44 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index eked out a 0.05 percent gain.

Shares of Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson rose, up 3.8 percent and 1.6 percent respectively, helping to propel the Dow higher.

"Our growth momentum is steadily improving in line with our expectations, as we delivered sequentially stronger volume growth of 2 percent in the quarter while gaining global volume and value share in nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverages," Muhtar Kent, chief executive officer of Coca-Cola, said in a statement.

Brian Peery, who helps oversee US$4.8 billion for Novato, California-based Hennessy Funds, told Bloomberg News that his firm has taken advantage of the recent selloff to add holdings in industrial companies, such as airlines.

"The market is going to continue to climb the proverbial wall of worry. There is enough good economic news to support the market moving up higher in slower stages," Peery said.

In the latest US economic data, a Labor Department report showed the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, following a 0.1 percent increase in February.

Separately, the New York Fed's Empire State general business conditions index unexpectedly dropped, sliding to 1.29 in April, the lowest level in five months, from 5.61 in March.

"While increases in consumer prices are a good sign for many concerned about disinflation, it is not positive for the overall economy unless wages rise in tandem," Jay Morelock, an economist at FTN Financial in New York, told Reuters.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 1 percent slide from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent, while France's CAC 40 shed 0.9 percent, and Germany's DAX dropped 1.8 percent.

In Germany, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research said its index of investor and analyst expectations dropped to 43.2 in April, down from 46.6 in March. The decline was larger than expected by economists.

(BusinessDesk)

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