Stocks Rise, Buoyed by Alcoa, Jobless Claims

Stocks rebounded Thursday after jobless claims beat and Alcoa kicked off the earnings season with exactly what analysts wanted to see: better-than-expected revenue.

The Dow was up nearly 100 points by lunchtime, after starting the day up just 50 points.

The number of workers filing new claims for jobless insurance fell to a nine-month low last week, down 33,000 to a seasonally adjusted 521,000 last week, the Labor Department reported.

In other economic news, wholesalers pared inventories for a 12th straight monthin August, while the sales gain was the largest in more than a year.

A fresh round of optimism was sparked after the bell yesterday when Alcoabeat on both profit and revenue forecasts.

In regular trading yesterday, stocks finished mixed as anxiety about earnings season brewed.

In other earnings news today, Pepsico beat expectations and the company affirmed its full-year outlook but shares fell as the earnings beat was largely due to cost-cutting measures and revenue actually declined.

That's how it's going to go down this quarter: Analysts are over the cost-cutting beat and are now looking for signs of improvement in revenue, not just an improved bottom line due to cost-cutting measures.

Banks opened higher, including Bank of America , Citigroup and JPMorgan .

Retailers rallied as many beat September sales expectations, helped by a late Labor Day and delayed back-to-school shopping. Plus, a cool September helped several retailers that are more impacted by weather.

Macy's and Target were among the early winners, posting smaller declines than expected. Target also went so far as to say third-quarter earnings would beat expectations.

Abercrombie & Fitch shares jumped 7 percent after the teen chain, which has taken a beating in recent months, reported its sales dropped just 18 percent, far less than the 21 percent expected.

Homebuilders rallied as the average rate on a 30-year mortgage dropped to 4.87 percentthis week, down from 4.94 percent last week, according to a report from Freddie Mac.

Lennar jumped about 9 percent, while KB Home was up nearly 8 percent.

At 1 pm, the Treasury will auction $12 billion in 30-year bonds, following strong demand at previous auctions this week.

Techs were right back up there today, with Dell and Microsoft up more than 2 percent. Palm jumped nearly 5 percent.

IBM, however, faltered. The company is the subject of a Justice Department antitrust probe regarding its behavior in the mainframe computer market. IBM says there is no basis for any such claims.

It's been an active season as well for mergers and acquisitions, but one deal faces troubles.

In a provisional ruling, Britain's competition regulator said a deal between Ticketmaster Entertainment and Live Nation could lead to higher prices and less competition. The US Justice Department also is examining the deal, which was announced earlier this year.

Across the pond, the European Central Bank and Bank of England, as expected, both held the line on lending rates. The decisions come a day after Australia's central bank raised its lending rate.

Gold prices will bear watching once again, having set yet another record high in Thursday's trading.

The dollar continued its freefall, tumbling further after the Australian dollar jumped on a strong jobs report and strong earnings sent investors to riskier assets.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: Foreclosure report; Fed's Hoenig speaks; Chevron update
FRIDAY: Market peak 2-year anniversary (Dow at 14,164.53); international trade

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