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Stocks edge higher in afternoon trade

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JOSHUA FREED | November 4, 2013 03:15 PM EST | AP

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Investors picked over a stock market that is already near all-time highs on Monday, doing enough selective buying to send indexes slightly higher.

There was no broad rally, no widespread buying. Instead, certain industries attracted interest. Homebuilding stocks rose after a big merger was announced. Steel stocks rose after Goldman Sachs predicted better demand. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up more than one percent, the biggest gain among major U.S. indexes.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,767. The S&P 500 closed at a record high of 1,771.95 on Oct. 29 and has risen for four weeks in a row.

The Nasdaq composite also rose, gaining 12 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,934.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 22 points, or a tenth of a percent, to 15,638.

All 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 rose, led by energy and technology stocks.

Homebuilders gained after Tri Pointe Homes said it would combine with Weyerhaeuser's home building business in a $2.7 billion deal. Last week homebuilders fell after the Federal Reserve said in a policy statement that the recovery in that sector has "slowed somewhat" in recent months.

Tri Pointe rose 82 cents, or 5.4 percent, to %$16.20. D.R. Horton rose 31 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $18.82. Beazer Homes USA rose 17 cents, or 1 percent, to $18.05. KB Home rose 29 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $16.89.

Steelmakers rose after Goldman Sachs said the steel sector appears to be "heading to a sustainable recovery." AK Steel Holding rose 41 cents, or 9 percent, to $5.01. US Steel rose $1.20, or 4.6 percent, to $26.98. Steel Dynamics Inc. rose 40 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $18.84.

So far during the third-quarter earnings season, 68 percent of companies that have reported have beaten analysts' estimates, according to S&P Capital IQ. But 60 of the 78 companies that provided fourth-quarter forecasts came in lower than analysts were expecting.

"Generally earnings have been OK, but revenues have been a little bit light," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager for the Clover Small Value Fund at Federated Investors.

"Management teams seem to be getting it done through cost-cutting rather than vibrant organic growth. The economy is growing slowly, stubbornly slowly," Creatura said.

Cost-cutting was what drove shares higher for cereal-maker Kellogg, which gained 65 cents, or 1 percent, to $62.94. Kellogg said it will cut its workforce 7 percent after reporting sales that were weaker than the market was expecting.

Food distributor Sysco rose after its earnings beat analyst estimates. Its stock rose $1.60, or 4.9 percent, to $34.16.

BlackBerry plunged $1.23, or 16 percent, to $6.54 after the company said it was calling off its effort to find a buyer and would replace its CEO. The smartphone maker has been losing customers to Apple's iPhones and phones that run Google's Android software.

With just 14 companies set to report earnings on Monday, some investors were on the sidelines. The pace of earnings picks up on Tuesday. Investors were also looking ahead to Twitter's highly-anticipated public offering and the Labor Department's employment survey on Friday.

It's a big week for initial public offerings, too. The twelve offerings this week make it a tie for busiest of the year.

IPOs often track stock market valuations, and the S&P 500 is up more than 23 percent so far this year. The more investors pay for stocks listed now, the more companies figure investors will pay for newly issued shares, too.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.60 percent from 2.62 percent.