SOURCE: Five Star Equities

Five Star Equities

February 20, 2013 08:20 ET

Strong Earnings Season Drives S&P 500 Index to Five Year High

Five Star Equities Provides Stock Research on Lorillard and Philip Morris International

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Feb 20, 2013) - The S&P 500 Index has continued its surge throughout this earnings season and has topped the 1500 mark for the first time in five years. The S&P Index has posted a gain of 7 percent year-to-date. Five Star Equities examines the outlook for companies in the S&P 500 Index and provides equity research on Lorillard Inc. (NYSE: LO) and Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE: PM).

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Signs of an improving U.S. economy combined with a relatively strong earnings season has helped fuelled the S&P Index's rally in the early parts of 2013. Of the 354 companies in the S&P 500 Index that have reported earnings this year approximately 74 percent have exceeded profit projections, according to data from Bloomberg.

"The early months of any year are often seasonally strong for the stock market, and this year was no exception," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors, which oversees $380 billion. "The important question is, were those gains earned? Based on the earnings results that we've gotten so far, it seems as though they were."

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Lorillard, through its Lorillard Tobacco Company subsidiary, is the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States. The company reported net sales increased 5.3 percent year-over-year to $1,704 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012. Lorillard's Board of Directors approved a 6.5 percent increase for the company's quarterly dividend. Lorillard now offers investors an annual dividend of $2.20 per share for a dividend yield of approximately 5.2 percent.

Shares of Philip Morris International have gained over 9 percent year-to-date. The company currently offers investors an annual dividend of $3.40 per share for a dividend yield of approximately 3.72 percent. For the fourth quarter of 2012, the company reported net revenues increased 2.8 percent year-over-year to $7.9 billion.

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