Stocks Edged Higher on Profit Hopes

U.S. stocks edged higher Monday on light volume, catching an updrift on hopes U.S. corporate earnings reports would show some strength. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 32.77 points, or 0.27%, to 12,392.69. The S&P 500 finished up 2.89 points, or 0.23%, at 1,280.70. The Nasdaq Composite added 2.34 points, or 0.09%, to 2,676.56.

Alcoa Inc (AA), the largest U.S. aluminum producer, posted a fourth-quarter loss on Monday as slumping metal prices forced it to take a charge for cutting back production and market weakness continued, particularly in construction and packaging. The loss from continuing operations was $193 million, or 18 cents per share, compared with a profit of $172 million, or 15 cents per share in the same quarter of 2010.

Juniper Networks Inc.(JNPR) on Monday said it will report fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and sales that are less than previously forecast. After the market closed, Juniper said that for the quarter ended Dec. 31, it now expect to post earnings, excluding one-time items, of between 26 cents and 28 cents a share, on revenue in a range of $1.11 billion to $1.12 billion. The company had earlier forecast earnings of 32 cents to 36 cents share on $1.16 billion to $1.22 billion in sales.

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