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Stocks finish up slightly in topsy-turvy trading

Stocks finished with modest gains in Thursday trading after pulling back from a rally that pushed share prices near their highest levels of the year.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks finished with modest gains Thursday after pulling back from a rally that pushed share prices near their highest levels of the year.

All three major stock indexes finished higher after an up-and-down trading session. Stocks initially jumped as much as 1 percent following another round of earnings announcements, then traded briefly in the red in the afternoon before a final push higher.

After the market closed, Internet retailer Inc. reported that earned 51 cents per share in the third quarter, which was 3 cents higher than analysts were expecting. The company's operating expenses were also 40 percent higher than this time last year, which helped push its shares down about 4 percent in after-market trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 38.60, or 0.4 percent, to close at 11,146.57. It briefly eclipsed its highest closing level of 2010, which it reached on April 26.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.09, or 0.2 percent, to 1,180.26, while the Nasdaq rose 2.28, or 0.1 percent, to 2,459.67.

The Dow had been up as much as 105 points after three members of the index — Caterpillar Inc., Travelers Cos. and McDonald's Corp. — all beat earnings expectations.

Traders were also looking at data that did not provide a clear outlook for the economy. First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the decline was offset by a sharp upward revision to the previous week's claims. Unemployment claims are stuck at levels that indicate companies are not still not hiring many workers.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, said that country's economic growth slowed to 9.6 percent in the third quarter. China has been trying to slow its rapid growth to a more sustainable level that would keep inflation from getting out of control. However a slowdown in China could also effect on exports and sales to that country.

"It was a mixed day for earnings reports and economic data, and the stock market is reflecting that," said Brad Sorensen, a director of sector research at Charles Schwab.

Bank of America Corp. again hurt the Dow as it continues to be dogged by worries about whether investors will force the bank to buy back mortgages it originated. Shares of the North Carolina bank were down 39 cents, or 3.3 percent. The company has fallen 13 percent this month.

Stocks of other big national banks were also mostly lower on the day.

Home Depot Inc., with a gain of 3.5 percent, was the top-performing stock in the Dow.

Caterpillar hit a high for the year early in the morning before pulling back. United Parcel Service Inc.'s profit jumped and the shipping company raised its outlook. But it too retreated after coming within $1 of hitting a new high for the year.

"We've had some better-than-expected earnings for the last few days, but I think what's happening today is some natural volatitly as we get near the highs for the year," said Thomas Villalta, a fund manager at Jones Villalta funds. Each major market index is up more than 3 percent for the month.

JetBlue Airways Corp. also reported strong earnings, only to see its stock approach its 2010 high and then fall. Shares of the company fell 33 cents on the day, or 4.7 percent, to finish at $6.62. Competitor Delta Air Lines Inc. saw its shares rise for the second straight day, finishing up 56 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $13.53 a share. The company's stock is up nearly 20 percent for the week.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.54 percent from 2.48 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar rose 0.3 percent against a broad basket of currencies.

Consolidated trading on the New York Stock Exchange came to 4.5 billion shares.