US stocks climb on hiked price targets

US stocks gained yesterday, overcoming weak Citigroup results and concerns circling Apple after Chief Executive Steve Jobs’ medical leave.

Investors focused instead on increased price targets for Google, which reports later this week, and Dow component Caterpillar, whose results are due next week.

Shares of Apple slipped 2.3 per cent to $340.65 ahead of its quarterly earnings, after the company said Jobs is taking his third medical leave since 2004.

Shares of the bellwether technology company pared earlier losses and eased pressure on stock indexes. Apple has about a 21 per cent weighting in the Nasdaq 100, which edged up 0.2 per cent.

“To me, it seemed like the news was troubling for the company, but it’s Apple, it ain’t going to matter,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco. He correctly predicted the firm would report strong results.

Offsetting the news was a gain in shares of Google, up 2.5 per cent at $639.63 after several brokerages raised their price target on the company’s stock ahead of the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine’s earnings later this week.

The Dow also rose moderately, boosted by gains in Caterpillar. The heavy equipment maker’s stock was up 2.8 per cent at $96.23 after Raymond James raised its price target to $116 from $95.

Also lifting the Dow was Boeing, which gained 3.4 per cent to $72.47 after the plane maker alleviated fears about the delivery schedule of its long-delayed 787 Dreamliner jet.

Optimism about earnings has helped bolster stocks in recent weeks, with the S&P 500 posting its seventh straight week of gains on Friday.

Aside from Apple, gains were tempered by Citigroup, whose shares fell 6.4 per cent to $4.80 after the third-biggest US bank reported a sharp drop in bond trading revenue that pushed profits below expectations.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 50.55 points, or 0.43 per cent, to end at 11,837.93. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 1.78 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 1,295.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 10.55 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 2,765.85.