By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks notched a second straight day of gains on Wednesday, as climbing oil prices lifted the energy sector and earnings from Morgan Stanley provided a boost to financials.
Brent crude settled up 1.9 percent and U.S. crude settled up 2.6 percent after touching a 15-month high following a government report that showed a sharp drop in domestic inventories for the sixth week in seven.
The energy sector (.SPNY) rose 1.4 percent, its biggest gain in seven sessions. A 4.2-percent rise in Halliburton (HAL.N) also provided a boost after the world's No.2 oilfield services provider posted third-quarter results.
Morgan Stanley (MS.N) gained 1.9 percent after posting a better-than-expected quarterly profit to round out a string of solid results from big U.S. banks. The financial sector (.SPSY) has risen in three of the past four sessions for a 1.7 percent advance.
"We’re up because the (earnings) numbers are so great, the forward guidance is great and the banks just knocked it out of the park," said Ken Polcari, Director of the NYSE floor division at O’Neil Securities in New York.
"In the end, this quarter of earnings will not be negative, they will be slightly positive after it is all said and done."
A disappointing revenue forecast from Intel (INTC.O) capped the advance on Wall Street, however. The chipmaker tumbled 5.9 percent as the biggest drag on each of the three major indexes. The PHLX semiconductor index (.SOX) shed 0.45 percent.
With 70 companies in the S&P 500 having reported earnings through Wednesday morning, 80 percent have topped earnings' expectations. Third quarter earnings are now expected to increase 0.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, which would be the first quarter of growth in five.
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) rose 40.68 points, or 0.22 percent, to 18,202.62, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 4.69 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,144.29 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) added 2.58 points, or 0.05 percent, to 5,246.41.
The U.S. economy showed some signs of rising wage pressures in September and early October but overall compensation growth remained modest, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book report.
The third and final U.S. presidential debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is set to begin on Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT Thursday).
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.40-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.52-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 10 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 62 new highs and 56 new lows.
About 5.97 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, below the 6.45 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Frances Kerry and Nick Zieminski)