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Stock Market Ends Higher on Earnings   04/17 17:50

   Corporate earnings pushed U.S. stocks mostly higher on Thursday, but it 
wasn't an easy ride up.

   (AP) -- Corporate earnings pushed U.S. stocks mostly higher on Thursday, but 
it wasn't an easy ride up.

   The stock market appeared set in the morning for its fourth consecutive 
positive open, but immediately turned negative as investors sold shares in 
Google and IBM. The market heavyweights reported disappointing earnings late 
Wednesday. Earnings from toy maker Mattel and insurer UnitedHealth also dragged 
down stocks.

   But by midmorning, the market started to push higher as traders cheered 
upbeat results from Morgan Stanley, General Electric and PepsiCo.

   "We were expecting this earnings season to be pretty volatile, and it's 
proven to be true so far, in that we're seeing some differences in the 
results," said Paul Mangus, head of equity research and strategy for Wells 
Fargo Private Bank.

   The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 
1,864.85. Seven of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 gained, led by energy 
stocks. The Nasdaq added nine points, or 0.2 percent, to finish at 4,095.52. 
The Dow Jones industrial average, however, fell 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 
close at 16,408.54, hurt by the big drop in IBM.

   U.S. stock markets will be closed in observance of Good Friday.

   Bond prices fell, pushing up the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 2.72 
percent from 2.63 percent late Wednesday.

   After selling off Internet and biotechnology companies last week on concerns 
the stocks were overvalued, investors turned their attention this week to how 
companies' businesses are performing. Investors have lowered their expectations 
for earnings following severe cold in much of the country this winter. That 
harsh weather weighed on everything from auto and home sales to hiring.

   Investors are now eager to hear what CEOs have to say about business 
prospects going ahead.

   Thursday's trading reflected buying and selling on earnings news, rather 
than a broader market theme taking hold, Mangus said.

   "Going into this quarter, expectations are low, so if you disappoint on low 
expectations you're likely to be penalized," he said. "However, they also 
present the opportunity for some significant beats because the estimates are 
that low."

   Among companies whose earnings pleasantly surprised investors was General 
Electric, which described the economic situation as "positive" and said its 
industrial division was doing well. Another positive signal came from PepsiCo, 
which reported a higher profit after slashing costs and selling more snacks.

   GE gained 44 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $26.56, while PepsiCo added 
78 cents, or about 1 percent, to finish at $85.55.

   IBM, meanwhile, struggled with a decline in its hardware business in the 
latest quarter. Its stock slid $6.39, or 3.3 percent, to $190.01.

   UnitedHealth Group said its income slid 8 percent in the first quarter as 
fees and funding cuts from the health care overhaul dented its performance. 
UnitedHealth fell $2.41, or 3.1 percent, to $75.78.

   Despite the big-name decliners, the latest wave of quarterly results has 
been mostly positive, said John Fox, director of research at Fenimore Asset 
Management.

   "The overall read across five or 10 or 15 earnings reports is positive," Fox 
said, noting that many companies have reaffirmed their earnings forecasts for 
the year. "The fundamental underpinnings are good, and I'm not hearing anything 
from management that changes that."

   Investors will study more company earnings over the next couple of weeks as 
they try to determine whether the effects of the severe winter are easing.

   Homebuilders, automakers and consumer discretionary companies should provide 
a better read on whether consumer demand has rebounded from the deep chill.

   "The companies that would be most impacted by that have yet to report," 
Mangus said.


(KA)


 
 
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