Results season off to a positive start

US stocks edged higher yesterday as investors snapped up battered technology and commodity shares, while a positive broker comment on Goldman Sachs boosted the financial sector.<br /><br />Trading was choppy in light volumes for most of the day as investors remained cautious ahead of more corporate earnings reports in the coming weeks.<br /><br /><strong>Alcoa</strong> set a positive tone when it kicked off the earnings season with a smaller-than-expected loss.<br /><br />The Dow industrials index closed just above break-even as shares of healthcare and consumer staples companies weighed.<br /><br /><strong>Merck</strong> fell 3.7 per cent to $27.01 on speculation its Zetia cholesterol drug fared poorly in a clinical trial comparing it to a drug from Abbott Laboratories.<br /><br />Sentiment remained cautious ahead of the release of more US corporate earnings, said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia.<br /><br />&ldquo;Investors are still in more of a wait-and-see mode,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I still think we&rsquo;re in this grinding phase, this choppiness, because I don&rsquo;t know that we&rsquo;re going to get a whole lot out of these earnings.&rdquo;<br /><br />The Dow Jones industrial average gained 4.76 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 8,183.17. The Standard &amp; Poor&rsquo;s 500 index added 3.12 points, or 0.35 per cent, to 882.68. The Nasdaq Composite index rose 5.38 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 1,752.55.<br /><br />A treasury auction of 30-year US government bonds showed signs of strength, providing some cheer for investors concerned about the growing mountain of US government debt. Shares rose to session highs not long after the auction.<br /><br />Investment banking giant <strong>Goldman Sachs</strong> rose 3.4 per cent to $143.21 after Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch upgraded its rating to &ldquo;buy&rdquo; and raised its earnings estimates, saying the firm&rsquo;s earnings power and book value were increasing rapidly again. The S&amp;P financial sector led the S&amp;P 500 with a gain of 1.4 per cent.<br /><br />Energy shares rose, with the S&amp;P energy index up 1.1 per cent as crude oil futures edged up. Oil giant Chevron was up 0.5 per cent to $63.08.