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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wall Street journal

NEW YORK: US stocks edged higher in choppy trade on Thursday as another batch of positive earnings and a strong housing report put equities on track for a third straight day of gains.

While most corporate results topped expectations, some high-profile misses, including from Exxon and Aetna, kept a lid on gains.

Pending home sales rose to a near two-year high in March, but investors also had to contend with data showing a stumbling labor recovery as weekly initial jobless claims fell slightly but missed forecasts.

With 254 companies S&P 500 companies reporting, more than 72 per cent have topped estimates, according to Thomson Reuters data. A big beat from Apple Inc drove Wednesday's rally, which gave the Nasdaq its best day of the year.

Weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp and online jobs recruiter Monster Worldwide Inc both had higher-than expected net. Monster jumped 15.6 per cent to $9.43, while Lockheed added 1.1 per cent to $91.99.

But Exxon Mobil Corp and Aetna Inc posted lower earnings, a nd United Parcel Service Inc's revenues missed expectations.

Exxon fell 1.8 per cent to $85.33, Aetna slid 10.4 per cent to $44.20 and UPS lost 3.2 per cent to $77.07.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 61.11 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 13,151.83. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index put on 2.57 points, or 0.18 per cent, at 1,393.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 6.44 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 3,036.07.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, grappling with a bribery probe at its Mexican operation, was one of the top gainers on the Dow, climbing 2.6 per cent to $58.86. The retailer remains down 5.5 per cent for the week.

Wednesday's rally helped to purge much of April's losses brought on by investors' worries over prospects of a seasonally weak market in May as well as signs Europe's debt crisis was getting worse.

The S&P 500 was back above its 50-day moving average after the level was fiercely contested. Stocks pulled back as much as 4.2 per cent from yearly highs in early April.

Colgate-Palmolive Co slipped 0.9 per cent to $98.71, even as sales topped expectations, while PepsiCo Inc took off 0.3 per cent at $66.48 after earnings fell slightly but still topped estimates.

Shares of Whirlpool Corp, the world's largest appliance maker, dropped 4.6 per cent to $65.75 after sales declined and it missed estimates.

On the upside, Citrix Systems Inc surged 10.5 per cent to $85.81 a day after reporting strong net income, prompting analysts to raise estimates for the business software company.

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