Stocks Rise on Earnings, Jobs Data

U.S. stocks bumped to a higher close Thursday, riding some positive sentiment over quarterly results from Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley and a drop in weekly jobless claims. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 46.24 points, or 0.37%, to 12,625.19. The S&P 500 gained 6.46 points, or 0.49%, to 1,314.5. The Nasdaq Composite added 18.62 points, or 0.67%, to 2,788.33.

Morgan Stanley (MS) reported a loss for the fourth quarter, primarily due to a charge on account of a litigation settlement, but the results were better than analysts’ expectations. Net loss was $275 million (15 cents a share) compared to net earnings of $600 million (41 cents a share) a year ago.

Bank of America made $2 billion in the last three months of last year, reversing a loss from a year earlier. The bank said Thursday that it made 15 cents per share in the fourth quarter. For the year, the bank made $1.4 billion. It lost $2.2 billion in 2010.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits plummeted last week to 352,000, the fewest since April 2008. Applications fell 50,000, the biggest drop in the seasonally adjusted figure in more than six years, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Google Inc’s net revenue jumped more than 27 percent in the fourth quarter but fell short of Wall Street targets. It earned $2.71 billion, or $8.22 per share in the fourth quarter, compared to $2.54 billion, or $7.81 per share in the year-ago period. Google’s net revenue was $8.13 billion in the fourth quarter, versus $6.37 billion in the year-ago period.

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday reported a fiscal second-quarter profit of $6.62 billion, or 78 cents a share, on revenue of $20.89 billion. During the prior-year’s quarter, Microsoft earned $6.63 billion, 77 cents a share, on $19.95 billion in sales.

Intel Corp. on Thursday reported a fourth-quarter profit $3.4 billion, or 64 cents a share, compared with its profit of $3.2 billion, or 56 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Revenue rose 21% to $13.9 billion from $11.5 billion.

International Business Machines Corp.’s fourth-quarter earnings rose 4.4% as higher software and services revenue offset a decline in its hardware business. IBM reported a profit of $5.49 billion, or $4.62 a share, up from $5.26 billion, or $4.18 a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 1.6% to $29.5 billion.

Apple is launching a new version of its iBooks software, tailored to present vivid, interactive textbooks for elementary and high school students on the iPads.

Crude-oil futures ended a tad lower Thursday as one negative aspect of an inventories report — a greater-than-expected increase in gasoline supplies — overshadowed a surprise drop in crude stockpiles and a lower dollar. Crude for February delivery dipped 20 cents, or 0.2%, to end at $100.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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