Blue chips mostly higher; Boeing, Caterpillar lift Dow

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AP Photo/Richard Drew

(AP) NEW YORK - Stronger earnings from Boeing (BA) and Caterpillar (CAT) sent the Dow Jones industrial average higher Wednesday, but the broader market was mixed following a sharp drop in new home sales and a rare earnings miss from Apple.

The Dow was up 43 points at 12,660 in the first hour of trading. The Dow is coming off three triple-digit losses in a row.

The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped two points to 1,335 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 14 points to 2,849. The Nasdaq's biggest component, Apple (AAPL), dropped $29.52 to $571.41, a loss of 5 percent.

Boeing rose 99 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $73.02 after surprising investors with higher earnings. The aircraft maker also raised its profit forecast for all of 2012.

Caterpillar, which makes mining and construction equipment, rose $1.67, or 2 percent, to $83.10. The company blew away analysts' estimates with a 67 percent surge in profits for the second quarter. Caterpillar credited strong sales of mining equipment overseas and a strengthening housing market.

Shortly after the market opened, a report on new home sales punctured any sense of optimism about a recovery in the housing sector. The Commerce Department said sales of new homes plunged 8 percent last month to the slowest pace in five months. Sales in the Northeastern U.S. plummeted 60 percent.

The steep decline suggests a weaker job market could make the housing recovery slow and uneven. The stock market weakened after the report came out at 10 a.m. Home builders were hit particularly hard. Beazer Homes fell 10 cents to $2.38 and KB Home lost 26 cents to $9.38.

In other corporate news, Netflix (NFLX) dropped $17.60, or 22 percent, to $62.77. The movie streaming company and DVD-by-mail company reported late Tuesday that its net plunged 91 percent. Netflix's licensing fees rose and the company is facing stiff competition from other video providers.

Ford (F) reported a 57 percent decline in net income, pushing its stock down 8 cents to $8.98. WellPoint (WLP), the second largest U.S. insurer, lowered its outlook because of falling profits. It fell $6.68, or 11 percent, $54.74.