US Stocks Drift on Profit Reports

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are drifting on Thursday as more big companies report profits for the summer that were better than Wall Street feared.

The S&P 500 was 0.2% higher in early trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was edging up by 15 points, or 0.1%, to 28,226, as of 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.3% higher.

They're the latest flits in the stock market's meandering trading over recent weeks as investors gauge the chances of Washington reaching a deal on more support for the economy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to speak again about a possible aid package for the economy on Thursday, a Pelosi spokesman said just after Wall Street closed trading on Wednesday. Investors have been asking for such assistance since the last round expired during the summer, but any compromise will likely face stiff resistance from Republicans in the Senate.

President Donald Trump also tweeted late Wednesday that he doesn't see any way Democrats will "do what is right" on stimulus.

A piece of such a deal could include extra benefits for workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. A report on Thursday morning showed that 787,000 workers applied for unemployment benefits last week.

While that's still an incredibly high number relative to history, it's down from 842,000 the prior week. It also was not nearly as bad as economists were expecting.

The number of workers continuing to get jobless benefits is also easing from its pandemic-era peak. That's a sign that some people have been able to find new jobs, but it also shows that others are simply using up the last of their unemployment benefits.

Big companies, meanwhile, continue to report profits for the summer that took a hit from the coronavirus-caused recession. But they're mostly not as bad as feared.

Align Technology, which makes Invisalign teeth straighteners, surged 31.7% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after its earnings report blew past Wall Street's expectations. Stronger sales to teenagers helped the company more than triple analysts' expectations for earnings per share.

The stock's surge helped drive health care to the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500.

AT&T strengthened by 5.6% after it reported revenue for the latest quarter that beat analysts' expectations. Coca-Cola gained 2.1%, and Tesla rose 3.4% after both reported earnings that topped Wall Street's forecasts.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 0.81% from 0.83% late Wednesday. It's still close to its highest level since June.

In European stock markets, Germany's DAX lost 0.3%, and France's CAC 40 slipped 0.1%. The FTSE 100 in London was virtually flat.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.7%, South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1%. Stocks in Shanghai dropped 0.4%.