US stocks creep up; IBM, other tech stocks rise

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Associated Press

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 19 at 2:05 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Strong earnings from IBM and other technology companies nudged the stock market higher Thursday, but a trio of weak economic reports kept the gains in check.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19 points to 12,927 shortly after 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

IBM was the Dow's top stock. The technology giant surged 3 percent after it posted a jump in profits late Wednesday even as revenue fell. It marked the 38th consecutive quarter that IBM's net income rose over the previous year. IBM leapt $6.81 to $195.07.

"One thing is dominating today and it's tech earnings," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at the mutual fund manager Federated Investors. "Earnings have been better than a lot of people expected. That could still change, but so far, so good."

Analysts forecast that earnings at S&P 500 companies shrank 1.5 percent in the April-through-June period versus a year ago, according to researchers at S&P Capital IQ. If that turns out to be true, it will be the worst earnings season since the summer quarter of 2009.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained three points to 1,376.39. Technology stocks are up more than the rest of the market, sending the Nasdaq composite index up 27 points to 2,969.

Despite the modest gains, there were other signs of optimism. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange, and stocks considered safe bets declined. Utilities and consumer staples lagged behind the market, which is usually a sign that investors were willing to take on risk.

eBay jumped 9 percent after the company reported that its second-quarter net income doubled, thanks to higher revenue from its PayPal online payments business and its e-commerce websites. eBay rose $3.73 to $44.19.

The market wavered in early trading, flipping from gains to losses and back again, after a measure of manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region came in much weaker than economists had expected. Two other economic reports also released at 10 a.m., homes sales and leading economic indicators, were also weak.

Big banks and financial firms were mostly lower, following poor earnings reports from American Express and Morgan Stanley.

American Express lost 3 percent, the largest drop in the Dow, after earnings missed Wall Street's expectations. Slower growth in Europe weighed on the credit-card company's results as international revenue fell 4 percent. Amex lost $2 to $56.19.

Morgan Stanley fell 85 cents to $13.15, a drop of 6 percent. The investment bank's income and revenue fell far short of what analysts expected, dragged down by dismal results from trading stocks and bonds.

The Dow is now up 1.2 percent for the week, the S&P 500 index 1.5 percent.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— Walgreen Co. soared 10 percent. The Walgreen pharmacy chain and Express Scripts reached an agreement in which Walgreen will once again fill prescriptions from people in the Express Scripts network. That ended a dispute between the two companies. Walgreen gained $3.20 to $34.18.

— Textron jumped 11 percent, , the largest gain in the S&P 500, after the maker of Cessna planes reported that its quarterly earnings nearly doubled. The results trounced Wall Street analysts' estimates, thanks to rising demand for its Citation line of business jets and Bell helicopters. Textron gained $2.67 to $26.43.

— Johnson Controls sank 6 percent. Earnings for the maker of auto parts and building equipment fell far short of expectations, partially a result of a weaker euro and sluggish demand from Europe. The company said it expects Europe to remain a problem. Johnson Controls' stock lost $1.77 to $26.55.

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