NEW YORK – Strong earnings reports from blue chip companies lifted stocks across the market Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average added to its 2011 high, rising 0.2 percent to 12,483. The broader S&P 500 index gained 6, or 0.5 percent, to 1,337. Nine of the 10 company groups that make up the index rose, led by a 1 percent gain in technology companies. The Nasdaq composite index rose 16 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,818.
Apple Inc. rose 3 percent after reported sales and income late Wednesday that came in way ahead of analysts' estimates. The company sold 18.7 million iPhones in the latest quarter, millions more than expected. Verizon Wireless started selling the phones in February, ending three and a half years of exclusivity by AT&T Inc.
The Travelers Companies Inc. rose 3 percent, leading the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, after reporting stronger earnings and a 14 percent dividend increase. The commercial insurer benefited from a drop in losses from catastrophe claims and more companies buying insurance.
UnitedHealth jumped nearly 9 percent after the health insurer said profits rose 13 percent as more employees signed up for coverage.
The stronger earnings results were tempered by a weaker-than-expected job market report. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week to 403,000. Economists had expected a larger drop.
McDonald's Corp. fell 2 percent despite beating analyst's earnings estimates after the company said that it expects the cost of most of its ingredients to rise by as much as 5 percent throughout the year.
Better earnings from Intel Corp. and other technology companies sent stocks higher Wednesday and drove the Dow Jones industrial average to a new 2011 high. The Nasdaq composite index gained 57 points, its biggest one-day jump in six months.
The gains turned all three indexes positive for the week. Stocks took a steep drop Monday after Standard & Poor's warned that it might lower its AAA rating on U.S. government debt.
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