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Stocks climb amid strong earnings news18

Stocks rose slightly Wednesday on strong earnings news and a decline in the trade deficit.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks were mostly higher Wednesday on strong earnings news and a decline in the trade deficit.

Wall Street rebounded from Tuesday’s losses after Circuit City Stores Inc. reported its earnings jumped 65 percent. The electronic retailer’s news, coming off an upbeat earnings report from Alcoa Inc. early in the week, reassured investors nervous about rising commodity prices and their impact on corporate profits.

In economic news, America’s trade deficit improved in February, as the imbalance with China dropped to the lowest level in nearly a year. But the overall deficit was still the third highest on record. The deficit for the first two months of this year is running 13.5 percent above the pace in early 2005, a year when the U.S. deficit hit an all-time high of $723.6 billion.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the deficit fell to $65.7 billion, a 4.2 percent decline from January’s record imbalance of $68.7 billion.

“We have a minor stabilization of the market after a couple of slightly softer days,” said Stuart Schweitzer, global markets strategist at JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management. “No big surprise.”

In late afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose about 33 points to 11,122.

Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose a fraction of a point to 1,287, and the Nasdaq composite was down a fraction at 2,310.

The indexes’ advances masked weakness in the market. On the New York Stock Exchange, declining issues slightly outnumbered advancers.

Bonds fell, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note at 4.96 percent, down from 4.93 percent late Tuesday. The U.S. dollar rose other major currencies. Gold prices were lower.

Crude oil futures fell. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $69.95, down 3 cents, in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

There were further signs the housing market is slowing, which some investors view as a sign that Federal Reserve rate hikes are cooling down the economy. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly home purchase index decreased by 4.7 percent and the refinance index dropped by 6.6 percent.

Circuit City rose 86 cents to $25.47 after its fourth-quarter earnings soared on strong sales and improved supply management. Earnings from Circuit City, the nation’s No. 2 chain of consumer electronics stores behind Best Buy Co. Inc., were $146.6 million, or 84 cents per share, beating analysts’ estimates of 84 cents a share.

Alcoa, which reported earnings after the close of trading Monday, rose 1 cent to $34.10.

DaimlerChrysler AG chief executive Dieter Zetsche said Wednesday the German-American automaker’s profitability would continue to improve this year. Zetsche didn’t specify what this year’s profit goal would be, but said a detailed outlook for 2006 would be unveiled April 27 when the company announces its results for the first quarter of 2006. DaimlerChrysler fell 1 cent to $57.50.

Gannett Co., the largest newspaper publisher in the country, fell 49 cents to $58.33 after it reported an 11.5 percent decline in profit as the company began expensing stock options and recording costs from its new newspaper partnership in Detroit.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 751.43 million shares, down from 809.88 million at the same time Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 5.10, or 0.69 percent, to 747.21.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 1.47 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.26 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.12 percent, and France’s CAC-40 lost 0.54 percent.