Dow Hold Gains After Philly Fed; FedEx Skids

The Dow advanced Thursday after beats on both Philly Fed and jobless claims and as the CPI report showed inflation was essentially non-existent. FedEx shares tumbled.

The Dow was up about 20 points, led by DuPont , Alcoa and Pfizer .

American Express and Intel were among the biggest decliners.

This came after the Dow rose for a seventh straight session, closing at its highest level since 2008, as a renewed pledge from the Fed for low rates and a drop in inflation at the producer level helped fuel the market's momentum. Volume has been lower, however, as today and tomorrow brings "quadruple witching," the expiration of four types of options and futures contracts.

The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000, slightly beating a consensus estimate of economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

At the same time, the Commerce Department said consumer prices remained flat as the wobbly economy prevented the ability of companies to charge more for their products.

As for the 10am numbers: The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index rose to 18.9, higher than expected, from 17.6 last month. Leading indicators rose for an 11th straight month. And mortgage rates were flat last week, with the 30-year fixed holding below 5 percent.

Worries about Greece helped keep a lid on gains. The prime minister warned the government won't be able to make budget cuts unless it can borrow money cheaply. Plus, there's buzz that Greece may soon ask the IMF for financial aid.

Economic bellwether Federal Express beat on earningsand saw revenue climb 7 percent but its shares fell on what appears to be a classic buy the rumor, sell the news, trade.

Nike reported earnings after the bell Wednesday that vastly exceeded Wall Street estimates.

Hand-held gadget maker Palm reports after the closing bell today.

Elsewhere, regional bank Sandy Spring Bancorp shares tumbled after a share offering was priced at a discount, while international telecomm firm Vimple Com fell after disappointing earnings.

An American Bankers Association conference in Washington, DC will feature no less than three Federal Reserve speakers: Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto, Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig, and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker. Lacker and Hoenig have been among those dissenting as policymakers continue to say they will keep interest rates "exceptionally low" for an "extended period."

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: March Madness begins; Fed's Hoenig, Lacker & Pianalto speak; current account; leading indicators; Philly Fed; Earnings from Palm after the bell
FRIDAY: Quadruple witching; S&P index rebalancing

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