Stocks Up on JpMorgan, Economic Data

U.S. stocks were higher in early trading on Thursday with sentiment lifted after J.P. Morgan Chase beat earnings estimates and a rush of economic data helped shift markets’ focus away fromthe stalled U.S. debt-ceiling debate. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 78.48 points to 12,570.09. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 8.58 points to 1,326.30. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 17.95 points to 2,814.87.

JPMorgan Chase & Co posted a higher-than-expected jump in second-quarter profit as it wrote off fewer bad mortgages and credit card loans. JPMorgan earned $5.43 billion, or $1.27 a share, in the second quarter, beating the average Wall Street estimate by 6 cents a share. The results were up from year-earlier earnings of $4.8 billion, or $1.09 a share.

Fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week, an encouraging sign the job market may be slowly improving. Weekly applications dropped 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 405,000, the Labor Department said, the lowest level in almost three months.

Retail sales unexpectedly edged up in June as a rebound in receipts from auto dealers offset the biggest drop in gasoline sales in a year. Total retail sales rose 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said, after a dipping 0.1 percent in May. U.S. wholesale prices eased in June as the cost of energy posted the biggest monthly drop in two years, the government reported Thursday. The Labor Department said its producer-price index fell a seasonally adjusted 0.4% last month, marking the first decrease in one year.

ConocoPhillips, the nation’s third-largest oil company, said Thursday that it will split itself into two separate publicly traded companies and its CEO and Chairman Jim Mulva plans to retire once the transaction is complete.

Greece’s finance minister sought to downplay fears of the implications of a default rating being slapped on the debt-ridden country after an expected second bailout. Evangelos Venizelos told Parliament Thursday that the country faced “no danger of bankruptcy” and that its banking system was secure.

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