NEW YORK - Stock indexes crept higher in morning trading Wednesday after companies reported profits that were stronger than expected, if not strong. Technology stocks led the way following an encouraging report from Microsoft, which helped offset weakness in the energy and raw-materials sectors.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up nine points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,173 at 10:52 a.m. ET. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 41 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,600. The Nasdaq composite rose 49 points, or 1 percent, to 5,085.
Microsoft surged $3.11, or 5.9 percent, to $56.21. The technology giant said it returned to a profit in its fiscal fourth quarter after reporting a loss a year earlier. Its earnings topped analysts' expectations, and the company credited momentum in its cloud-computing business. Microsoft's surge helped the technology sector rise 1 percent, much more than the rest of the market.
Cintas was the top-performing stock in the S&P 500 after reporting quarterly results that beat Wall Street's forecasts. The company, which provides uniforms, restroom supplies and other products for offices, surged $8.50, or 8.7 percent, to $105.94.
Intuitive Surgical was the second-best performing stock in the S&P 500. Intuitive jumped $47.86, or 7.1 percent, to $719.76. The maker of robotic-assisted surgical systems reported revenue and earnings per share that both topped analysts' expectations.
Analysts came into this earnings reporting season with low expectations, forecasting a roughly 5 percent drop for S&P 500 companies from a year earlier. That's made it easier for companies to come in above forecasts.
Several reports on the U.S. economy have also come in better than expected in recent weeks, which has helped stock indexes reach record highs. The S&P 500 has jumped just over 8 percent since hitting a bottom on June 27 after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The Dow has risen for eight straight days, its longest streak in three years.
Calm in the markets meant less demand for gold and Treasurys, traditional go-to investments during periods of fear. The price of gold fell $17.40, or 1.3 percent, to $1,314.90 per ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, rose to 1.59 percent from 1.56 percent late Tuesday.
The VIX, an index that measures investors' expectations of future volatility in the stock market, fell 2.8 percent and is close to its lowest level since 2014.
Energy stocks fell with the price of oil. The price of benchmark U.S. crude lost 25 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $44.38 a barrel. Brent crude fell 2 cents to $46.65 a barrel in London. Murphy Oil fell 54 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $30.46.
European markets were mostly higher, while Asia's day was mixed. Germany's DAX rose 1.3 percent after Volkswagen reported earnings that were better than analysts were expecting. France's CAC 40 climbed 0.9 percent, and Japan's Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.2 percent.
The euro rose to $1.1019 from $1.1015 late Tuesday, and the British pound rose to $1.3184 from $1.3093. The dollar rose to 106.64 Japanese yen from 106.09 yen.