Dow above 12,000 after strong earnings reports
NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock indexes touched two and a half year highs for the third time this week after several large companies reported strong earnings reports.
Caterpillar Inc. rose 1 percent after its fourth-quarter profit quadrupled on strong global demand for mining and construction equipment. Time Warner Cable Inc. gained 2 percent after raising its dividend thanks to a 22 percent jump in income last quarter.
AT&T Inc. fell 3 percent. The company reported that new wireless contracts fell to the lowest level in more than five years.
In early trading today, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 14 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,000. The index broke through the 12,000 mark Wednesday for the first time since June 2008 before slipping in late afternoon. The Dow has gained 83 percent since its March 2009 lows.
The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 3, or 0.2 percent, to 1,299. The last time the index closed above 1,300 was Aug. 28, 2008.
The Nasdaq composite gained 13, or 0.5 percent, to 2,752.
First-time applications for unemployment rose to 454,000, the highest level since late October. Economists had expected the number to rise to 407,000. Snowstorms in some parts of the country forced companies to lay off workers, economists said.
A government-appointed panel said today that the recent financial crisis could have been avoided if Wall Street executives and government officials had properly managed risks. The panel said that the Bush and Clinton administrations, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner share responsibility for allowing the crisis to happen. The panel's conclusions had been leaked ahead of its formal report and were widely expected on Wall Street.
After the market closed Wednesday, Netflix reported that its subscriber base rose above 20 million customers. The stock jumped 14 percent to $208. Netflix has quadrupled over the last 12 months.
Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will report earnings after the market closes.
Bond prices fell slightly, sending yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.43 percent from 3.41 percent late Wednesday.