By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks tallied modest gains Thursday after better-than-expected data on the housing front added to cheer that came with an upbeat forecast from Citrix Systems Inc.
Of the 51% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported first-quarter results so far, 72.4% have reported earnings above expectations; 11.8% reported earnings in line with expectations and 15.7% reported earnings below estimates, according to Thomson Reuters analyst Greg Harrison.
"A lot of people are talking about beating, but nobody is talking about the recent phenomena of companies actually starting to raise guidance after two quarters of lowering," said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James and Associates.
Since 1994, a typical quarter would have 62% of companies beating estimates; 18% matching and 20% missing. Over the past four quarters, 68% beat estimates; 10% matched and 22% missed, Harrison at Thomson Reuters added.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) rose 53.58 points, or 0.4%, to 13,1344.30.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) 2.47 points, or 0.2%, to 1,393.12, with telecommunications and financials the leading sectors among its 10 major industry groups.
Leading gains on the S&P, Citrix Systems (CTXS) rose 11% after the software maker projected 2012 earnings that beat estimates.
The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) rose 6.50 points, or 0.2%, to 3,036.13.
For every three stocks falling four gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where 244 million shares traded by 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
After a tepid start, stock indexes picked up a bit of steam after the National Association of Realtors reported its index of pending home sales climbed 4.1% in March to a two-year high.
Results from PulteGroup Inc. (PHM) also boosted housing-related shares, with the builder reporting less of a quarterly loss than Wall Street expected, its losses narrowing on improving home-sale prices.
Weighing on sentiment, weekly jobless claims came in virtually unchanged.