Banks Lead Stocks Higher

Banks Lead Stocks Higher

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are edging higher Thursday afternoon. Banks are rising as they continue to report their first-quarter results, and airlines are rising after Delta said the low cost of fuel boosted its business. Tech stocks are falling after dour projections from Seagate Technology.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average added 38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,946 as of 12:15 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,085. The Nasdaq composite gained 7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,954.

After making big jumps the last two days, stocks are little changed.

BANKS: Banks made the largest gains. Bank of America's profit fell on weak results from trading, but the outcome wasn't any worse than investors expected. The stock picked up 44 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $14.23.

Wells Fargo's profit fell as it set aside more money to cover its struggling portfolio of oil and gas loans. Still, it earned more money than analysts expected. The stock picked up 9 cents to $49.12. First Republic Bank jumped $4.78, or 7.1 percent, to $72.28 after the San Francisco bank reported a bigger-than-expected profit.

Bank stocks jumped Wednesday after JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, reported results that beat expectations. They are the worst-performing stocks in the S&P 500 index this year, and Wall Street has been bracing for bad results in the first quarter.

FLYING HIGH: Delta Air Lines' first-quarter profit jumped 27 percent, helped by low fuel costs. Delta's stockgained 88 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $48.92. American Airlines rose $1.31, or 3.3 percent, to $41.25 and United added $1.46, or 2.6 percent, to $57.04.

TECH TROUBLES: Data storage company Seagate Technology said its third-quarter profit margins and revenue will be lower than expected. The company said it's seeing lower demand for some kinds of hard disk drives. Its stock slumped $6.50, or 19.1 percent, to $27.44. Western Digital fell $3.65, or 8.1 percent, to $41.15 and NetApp lost $1.11, or 4.2 percent, to $2.59.

PIER PRESSURE: Pier 1 Imports is falling after the home decor company gave a shaky outlook for the first half of its fiscal year. Pier 1 said it expects "pressure" on its profit and sales because of marketing expenses, including a return to TV advertising, as well as price markdowns. The stock gave up 18 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $7.16.

UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS: Claims for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week and reached their lowest level since 1973. They've been at low levels for a year, which indicates the job market is healthy and employers aren't letting go of workers. That suggests many companies see the recent slowdown as temporary.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 16 cents to $41.92 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 18 cents to $44.36 a barrel in London.

OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 0.7 percent while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.5 percent. The FTSE 100 index in Britain held steady. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed 3.2 percent higher as the yen weakened slightly against the dollar. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent and South Korea's KOSPI climbed 1.7 percent.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 1.80 percent from 1.77 percent. The euro fell to $1.1267 from $1.1283 and the dollar slipped to 109.19 yen from 109.24 yen.

(KA)