US Stocks Off to a Strong Start

US Stocks Off to a Strong Start

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are off to another strong start Thursday morning as solid earnings from railroad operator CSX and paint and coatings maker Sherwin-Williams send companies that make and sell basic materials higher. Banks are also gaining ground after more of them report solid earnings and as bond yields rise, which allows banks to charge higher interest rates on loans.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,345 as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74 points, or 0.4 percent, to 20,478. The Nasdaq composite gained 25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,887. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 5 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,372.

Stocks also started higher Wednesday morning, but they wound up finishing mostly lower as investors were disappointed by an afternoon report from the Federal Reserve that showed only modest growth in wages. Investors have been hoping that higher wage growth will lead to more spending and economic expansion.

TRAIN KEPT A ROLLING: Railroad company CSX announced a bigger profit and more revenue than Wall Street expected in the first quarter. CSX also said restructuring and spending cuts will increase its profit by about 25 percent this year. The company is cutting jobs and reorganizing after it hired Hunter Harrison, former head of Canadian Pacific, as its new CEO last month. The company also said it will buy back more stock and raise its dividend. CSX stock jumped $4.29, or 9.1 percent, to $51.22.

Other railroads also rose. Norfolk Southern gained 3.8 percent and Union Pacific rose 2.3 percent. Industrial companies were among the top performers early Thursday.

PRETTY COLORS: Strong earnings from paint and coatings maker Sherwin-Williams helped basic materials makers. Sherwin-Williams raised its profit guidance for the year as paint sales jumped and prices increased. The stock added $8.44, or 2.7 percent, to $319.98. Steel maker Nucor also rose 1.4 percent after its first-quarter results were stronger than expected.

ANY BIDDERS? EBay sagged as investors didn't find much to like in its first-quarter results. The online commerce company's profit and sales were about equal to analyst estimates, but analysts took a cautious stance on the company's spending and its plans, and the stock gave up 90 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $32.95.

DROPPED CALL: Verizon dipped 75 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $48.19 as it lost wireless cellphone subscribers and its profit dropped 20 percent. That helped push other telecom companies lower. Other stocks that pay big dividends also fell. Utilities, companies that make and sell household goods, and real estate investment trusts also declined as bond yields rose. That made the stocks less appealing to investors seeking income. Bond prices fell further. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.24 percent from 2.22 percent.

GIVING CREDIT: American Express had a solid first quarter as its credit card members spent more and kept bigger balances on their cards. The stock gained $2.89, or 3.8 percent, to $78.44 as financial companies rallied Thursday. SLM Corp., the parent of the student lender Sallie Mae, reported much stronger revenue than expected and its stock climbed $1.17, or 10.1 percent, to $12.70. Citizens Financial rose 2.8 percent and private equity firm BlackStone rose 2 percent after their respective reports.

KCG-VIRTU IS A GO: Electronic trading firm Virtu Financial said it will buy the financial services firm KCG Holdings for $20 a share, or $1.33 billion. The two companies said they were in talks a month ago, and the price was at the high end of what Virtu said it was willing to pay. KCG stock jumped $1.99, or 11.2 percent, to $19.73 and Virtu rose $1.05, or 7 percent, to $16.

Equipment rental company United Rentals flopped after its sales fell far short of expectations. The company said rental rates are still somewhat weak, and its stock lost $8.23, or 6.9 percent, to $111.22.

OIL REVERSES: Benchmark U.S. crude added 21 cents to $50.65 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, the international standard, rose 40 cents to $53.33 a barrel. Energy companies made small gains. They stumbled Wednesday as the price of U.S. crude sank 3.8 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.13 yen from 108.70 yen. The euro rose to $1.0768 from $1.0721.

OVERSEAS: Paris' CAC 40 was up 0.8 percent and the DAX in Germany was unchanged. The FTSE 100 index in Britain was similarly steady. The benchmark Nikkei 225 in Japan finished little changed and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.5 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.9 percent.