NEW YORK - Reassuring comments from a Federal Reserve official and better earnings from two big retailers helped push the stock market higher Tuesday.
Stock indexes wobbled between gains and losses in early trading, then took a turn higher just before noon. That's when news came that James Bullard, head of the Fed's St. Louis branch, told an audience in Germany that the Fed ought to stick with its bond-buying effort to bolster the economic recovery.
"Those words were a salve for investors' nerves," said Lawrence Creatura, a fund manager at Federated Investors. Other Fed officials have recently talked about scaling back the program.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 52.30 points to 15,387.58, a gain of 0.3 percent.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 2.87 points to 1,669.16, a slight increase of 0.2 percent. Both the Dow and the S&P are at record highs. The Nasdaq composite rose 5.69 points to 3,502.12, a 0.2 percent gain.
Many investors were already looking ahead to Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve will release minutes from its most recent policy meeting and Chairman Ben Bernanke will go before Congress to discuss his outlook for the U.S. economy.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. gained 1.4 percent. Shareholders of the country's biggest bank voted to allow Jamie Dimon to keep his two titles, CEO and chairman of the board. Groups had pushed to split the jobs, a drive that gained momentum from a multibillion trading loss last year. The bank's stock rose 73 cents to $53.02.
Home Depot surged 2.5 percent. The retailer reported an 18 percent increase in quarterly income as the housing market continued to recover. Home Depot rose $1.95 to $78.71.
Among other companies posting quarterly results, AutoZone jumped 5 percent. Better sales and shrinking costs helped the auto-parts company beat analysts' earnings forecasts. AutoZone leaped $18.79 to $427.84.
In commodities trading, crude oil sank 55 cents to settle at $96.16 a barrel. The price of gold fell $6.50 to $1,377.60 an ounce, extending a slump that has knocked gold down 18 percent this year.
Carnival Corp. slumped 4 percent. The cruise-ship operator cut its earnings forecast for the year late Monday as it wrestles with the fallout from high-profile incidents, which left passengers stranded at sea. Carnival's stock lost $1.51 to $33.81.