Stocks advanced Thursday as investors seemed to focus more on some big-name earnings beats and a rise in leading indicators instead of a disappointing jobless report.
An index of leading economic indicators rose 1 percentin September, a two-year high and more than the 0.8-percent expected.
Jobless claims rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 531,000 last week, more than expected. And the previous week was also revised higher by 6,000.
Dow components Travelers, MMM and McDonald's advanced after their earnings reports; Bank of America was at the bottom of the pack.
McDonald's topped forecasts and said it expects same-store sales to remain positivein October.
Travelers reported its profit more than quadrupled, handily beating expectations, and raised its full-year forecast.
AT&Tbeat expectations, helped by the iPhone, but revenue slipped from a year earlier.
Merck said its net tripled in the quarter, helped by stronger salesand the sale of its animal-health business, which was required for its purchase of Schering-Plough. That acquisition is going to catapult Merck from the No. 8 drugmaker to No. 2.
More upbeat earnings reports after the bell late Wednesday from eBay and Amgen, both of which saw earnings beat Wall Street estimates.
After the bell today, we'll get reports from Amazon, American Express, Broadcom and Capital One, among others.
Microsoft shares skidded as the software giant releases its Windows 7 operating system today and opens its first retail store — in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Analysts said the new operating system may help jump-start corporate spending, but for some computer makers, it may not be until the second half of next year.
New York Fed President William Dudley speaks at a conference at 1:30 pm ET. At 4:30 pm, the Fed will release its monthly balance sheet update.
Pay czar Kenneth Feinberg will appear before the House Oversight Committee in a hearing that begins at 11 am. On Wednesday, we learned that Feinberg will mandate that top executives at bailed-out companies have their 2009 salaries cut by up to 90 percent, with total compensation cut by up to 50 percent.
Other factors are waylaying the stock market's recent advances—ranging from Walmart's price cuts to analyst Richard Bove's downgrade of Wells Fargo to rising oil prices.
The weak dollar bears watching once again Thursday, after the euro rose above the psychological $1.50 mark Wednesday.
- Peter Schacknow contributed to this article.
Still to Come:
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims; leading indicators; Fed's Rosengren, Lockhart and Dudley speak; Earnings from AT&T, Bristol-Myers, McDonald's, Merck, MMM, Travelers, UPS, Schering-Plough, Xerox, Amazon, AmEx, Braodcom and Capital One
FRIDAY: Fed chief Bernanke speaks; existing-home sales; Fed's Kohn speaks; Earnings from Microsoft, Honeywell and Ingersoll-Rand
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