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Profit reports boost Dow to slight gain

NEW YORK — The market had its second straight moderate advance Tuesday, rising after companies including United States Steel Corp. and American Express Co. managed to post profits in a difficult recession. Financial stocks that were mostly higher also lent support to the market.

The major indexes briefly stumbled after the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index in January slipped to its lowest level since the reading’s inception in 1967. The report indicated that consumers, who have already cut back drastically, are likely to remain reluctant to spend in the coming months. The index from the private research group slipped to 37.7 in January from a revised 38.6 in December.

But profit reports from U.S. Steel and American Express as well as chipmaker Texas Instruments Inc. and movie rental company Netflix Inc. reassured investors that while the fourth quarter was generally terrible for companies, it wasn’t the disaster many had feared — some companies are still able to make money despite the worst recession in decades.

“Remember, things have been so ugly for so long now that it doesn’t take a lot to have a positive surprise,” said Jim King, chief investment officer at National Penn Investors Trust Co. in Reading. He said some companies are putting up weak results but the numbers can still look respectable when compared with a year earlier.

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