Markets & Finance

Dow Hits Record on Earnings


The Dow average continued Wednesday's gains amid strong profits from 3M, Exxon Mobil, Apple and others, but the S&P 500 struggled

The Dow Jones industrial average clawed its way to another record close, but the broader market struggled as more companies reported stronger profits -- such as 3M (MMM), Exxon Mobil (XOM), and Apple (AAPL).

And after the closing bell Thursday, Microsoft (MSFT) reported earnings per share for March quarter of 50 cents, vs. 29 cents a year ago. That beat the forecast of 46 cents. Revenue jumped 32% to $14.4 billion. The stock rose 4% in after-hours trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.61 points, or 0.12%, to 13,105.5 -- another record close. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.17 points, or 0.08%, to 1,494.25. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 6.57 points, or 0.26%, to 2,554.46.

The question for the markets is if traders scramble to get on board of the rally sparked by positive earnings or take profits on worries about economy in coming months, says S&P.

Up next on Friday: The Univerity of Michigan consumer sentiment is expected to stay at 85.3 for the final reading for April, which would remain below the March reading of 88.4. "High gas prices and ongoing negative subprime news will likely continue to weigh on sentiment, although the recent strength in the stock market should be supportive over the near-term," says Action Economics.

Also due out is the advanced reading of first-quarter GDP -- expected to rise 2.0%. And the first-quarter employment cost index (ECI) -- an inflation gauge -- is expected to rise 0.9%, which should correspond to a 3.5% year-over-year increase.

In earnings news, Apple reported second-quarter earnings per share of 87 cents, vs. 47 cents a year ago, on a 21% revenue rise to $5.26 billion. That was much better than the consensus forecasts of 64 cents in EPS and $5.17 billion in revenue. The iPod maker sees third-quarter revenue of about $5.1 billion and EPS of about 66 cents. S&P raises estimates, target; reiterates strong buy. The stock was up 8% in premarket trading to almost $103, which would be a new high.

Among Dow components, Exxon Mobil (XOM) and 3M (MMM) reported better-than-expected profits.

Ford Motor (F) reported a narrower loss for the first quarter of 15 cents per share on a 5.4% revenue rise. The auto maker says first-quarter results came in somewhat stronger than expected, but there are many uncertainties going forward.

In tech, Qualcomm (QCOM) posted higher second-quarter EPS on a 21% revenue rise, and boosted its outlook for the current quarter.

Xilinx (XLNX) posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter EPS on a 6.1% sales decline. It sees first-quarter revenue up 1%-5% sequentially. First Albany reportedly upgraded the stock to buy from neutral.

In the energy markets, June NYMEX crude oil fell 76 cents to $65.08 a barrel. Another refinery fire, this time in Louisiana, lifted both front-month gasoline and crude to session highs, though profit taking over $66.00 in crude and $2.30 in gasoline saw prices reverse sharply into the close, says Action Economics.

European stock markets were mixed Thursday. In London, the FTSE-100 index rose 0.12% to 6,469.4. Germany's DAX index was up 0.6% to 7,387.02. In Paris, the CAC 40 index lost 0.05% to 5,944.44.

Asian markets moved up. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.12% to 17,429.17. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 0.64% to 20,667.29. But China's stocks pushed higher: The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.04% to 3,783.06, while the CSI 300 index was up 1.31% to 3,493.58.

Treasury Market

Treasurys yields headed higher as stocks rose, with the 10-year yield up to 4.684%. Some are arguing that tomorrow's expected weak GDP report will put pressure on the Fed to ease credit, says S&P.


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