Stocks Eke Out Gains on Solid Earnings

NEW YORK (AP) --- The latest batch of corporate results helped nudge the stock market to a slight gain Wednesday, snapping a three-day slump. Another drop in oil prices held indexes back.

First Solar soared 17 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, following news that the country's largest solar company turned in results that beat estimates and also raised its outlook for full-year profits. First Solar's stock jumped $7.42 to $51.92.

Better corporate earnings have helped support the stock market over the past month. Heading into the second-quarter earnings season last month, investors were braced for a sharp drop in profits. But now, with the bulk of results turned in, earnings are on track to slip just 0.2 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ.

"The expectations were that things would be terrible," said Brad McMillan, the chief investment officer for the Commonwealth Financial Network. "And while they're not great, they're certainly better than expected."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 6.52 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 2,099.84.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 10.22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,540.47, while the Nasdaq composite rose 34.40 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,139.94.

The market has looked listless in recent weeks as investors have traded one set of concerns for another. Worries about Greece have faded, said Burt White, the chief investment officer at LPL Financial. But concerns about China's economy and the Federal Reserve's next interest-rate increase remain. "I don't think the economy has a confidence problem," White said. "I think investors are having a confidence issue here."

Among other companies reporting quarterly results, Walt Disney dropped 9 percent, weighing on the Dow, after posting sales that fell short of estimates. The company also said a decrease in subscribers to ESPN could hamper its profit in the coming years. Disney's stock lost $11.16 to $110.53.

Priceline Group climbed 5 percent after the online-booking service posted profit and revenue that easily beat analysts' forecasts, helped by rising reservations for hotel rooms and rental cars. Its stock gained $67.22 to $1,351.21.

In Europe, an encouraging economic survey along with improving corporate earnings helped push major markets up. Germany's DAX surged 1.6 percent, France's CAC 40 gained 1.7 percent, and Britain's FTSE 100 added 1 percent.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index slid 1.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent, South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.4 percent.

Back in the U.S., government bond prices fell, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 2.27 percent from 2.22 percent.

(KA)