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Stocks extend rally into a sixth day, barely

An encouraging earnings forecast from UPS and stronger manufacturing figures gave the stock market its sixth straight advance.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An encouraging earnings forecast from UPS and stronger manufacturing figures gave the stock market its sixth straight advance.

The gains Thursday were modest following a surprise increase in the number of newly laid off people seeking unemployment benefits.

Analysts said a slowdown in the market's upward push was overdue. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 21 points after racing up nearly 104 on Wednesday. The Dow closed above 11,000 Monday for the first time in a year and a half. Other major stock indexes also stand at their highest levels since 2008.

The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index posted the biggest rise of major indexes ahead of earnings from Google Inc. The Internet search company reported after the closing bell that its first-quarter profit rose 37 percent but the stock fell 5 percent in electronic trading on concerns the company wasn't holding down costs.

Nasdaq 100 index futures slipped 0.2 percent following Google's report.

The forecast from UPS Inc. raised hopes that the economy is strengthening. The company raised its full-year earnings target because of stronger international deliveries. As the world's largest shipping company, UPS's results are seen as an early indicator of overall business activity. UPS shares rose 5.3 percent.

The UPS numbers and improved manufacturing reports from the Federal Reserve helped to offset some of the concern about the jobs figures.

The Labor Department reported that initial claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly for a second straight week. First-time claims for jobless benefits rose by 24,000 to 484,000 last week, the highest level since late February. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast a drop. The Easter holiday could have skewed the numbers, analysts said.

The stock market has been churning steadily higher after major indexes hit 12-year lows in March last year. Growing expectations for a recovery have been driving the climb. The increases in the past two months have been more subdued.

Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital in Pittsburgh, said the market's more consistent advance since February is welcome because it means investors aren't getting overly optimistic.

"We are seeing a straight line (higher) but there's not a whole lot of exuberance to it," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of skepticism about the market and that's a good thing."

The Dow rose 21.46, or 0.2 percent, to 11,144.57, its highest close since Sept. 19, 2008. The Dow has risen three out of every four days in the past two months but it hasn't gone up six straight days since mid-March.

The S&P 500 rose 1.02, or 0.1 percent, to 1,211.67, while the Nasdaq rose 10.83, or 0.4 percent, to 2,515.69.

Falling stocks narrowly outnumbered those that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume dropped to 6 billion shares from 5.7 billion Wednesday.

Bond prices rose, pushing their yields lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.84 percent from 3.87 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar and gold both rose.

Crude oil fell 33 cents to $85.51 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

David Chalupnik, head of equities at First American Funds in Minneapolis, said investors continue to put money in stocks of companies that are poised to benefit from a sharp rebound in the economy, like technology and industrial businesses. Defensive stocks like health care providers and phone companies are lagging.

He said the companies most tied to the winds of the economy cut costs the most during the recession and can snap back the most.

"As you go through earnings season here, it's going to be these companies that are going to put up the biggest surprises," he said.

The Federal Reserve said industrial production rose 0.1 percent in March. The increase was less than most economists had forecast but the report still indicated growth at the nations' factories, mines and utilities for the ninth straight month.

The New York Federal Reserve's Empire State Manufacturing Survey rose more than expected for April. A similar snapshot of regional manufacturing from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve also signaled that conditions are improving.

Among stocks in the news, UPS rose $3.44, or 5.3 percent, to $68.89.

Citigroup fell 12 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $4.81 after trading as high as $5.07. It hadn't topped the psychological barrier of $5 since October.

Yum Brands Inc., the parent of the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC restaurant chains, rose to a new high after the company's first-quarter earnings topped expectations. Yum shares closed up $1.10, or 2.6 percent, to $42.78. The stock rose as high as $43.76 following its report after regular trading hours Wednesday.

Google Inc. rose $6.30, or 1.1 percent, to $595.30. In after-hours trading the stock fell $29.06, or 4.9 percent, to $566.24.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 1.81, or 0.3 percent, to 724.21.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent, while Germany's DAX index and France's CAC-40 each rose 0.2 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average gained 0.6 percent.