U.S. stocks started higher Thursday, helped by better-than-expected earnings, a drop in jobless claims, and good demand at European bond auctions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 17 points 12,596. The Nasdaq Composite gained 12 points to 2,782. The S&P 500 gained 4 points to 1,312. The earnings are piling in. Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are trading up 4% on better than expected earnings. The financials in general continue to perform well. UBS is jumping 6% on an upgrade. Knight Capital is up 9% on strong earnings. Blackrock, BB&T, Webster Financial, and Fulton Financial are lower on earnings. In the tech space, F5 Networks is jumping 12% on earnings. Ebay and Xilinx are higher on earnings. Microsoft, Intel, Google, and IBM all report tonight. In the commodity space, Freeport McMoran is higher thanks to improving copper pricing and solid earnings. Noble Corp is higher on an upgrade. In the transportation space, Union Pacific is higher thanks to strong earnings. Southwest Air is up 2% on earnings. Through the first hour the averages slowly improved. The weakness so far is in defensive stocks and sectors like utilities. A few stocks are in the red following earnings. Johnson Controls is a stand out down 8% following earnings. Through the morning the averages held on to their gains, but off the highs. In the afternoon the averages gave up a little more of their gains as a few more stocks dropped into the red. Most investors remain on the sidelines waiting for more earnings reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 45 points at 12,623. The S&P 500 gained 6 points to 1,314 while the Nasdaq Composite added 18 points to 2,788.
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