Housing, profits lift Wall Street, Amazon up late

NEW YORK Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:54pm EDT

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 20, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose for a third day on Thursday after upbeat housing data and stronger-than-expected results from companies, including Citrix Systems Inc (CTXS.O), overshadowed some high-profile earnings misses.

An index of pending home sales rose to nearly a two-year high in March, sending the Philadelphia Stock Exchange index of housing-related shares .HGX up 3 percent. Shares of homebuilder Lennar (LEN.N) climbed 5.7 percent to $27.38.

The stock of PulteGroup Inc (PHM.N), the No. 2 U.S. homebuilder, soared 10.1 percent to $9.58 after it reported a narrower-than-expected loss and its biggest increase in new orders in seven years.

After the closing bell, shares of Amazon.com (AMZN.O) jumped 8.6 percent to $212.50 as the world's largest Internet retailer reported quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street's most bullish expectations. Amazon ended the regular session at $195.99, up 0.8 percent.

During the regular session, the positive news on the housing front helped the market overcome data showing a stumbling labor market recovery. Initial claims for jobless benefits fell slightly in the latest week, but missed forecasts.

Shares of Citrix surged 12.4 percent to $86.76 a day after the business software company reported strong net income, prompting analysts to raise estimates.

Among other results, weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and online jobs recruiter Monster Worldwide Inc (MWW.N) both had higher-than expected earnings. Lockheed added 0.8 percent to $91.70 and Monster leaped 9.7 percent to $8.95.

"You can get cautious right here, but do not get bearish. There are too many good things happening," said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist of Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, Florida.

With 254 companies in the S&P 500 reporting, more than 72 percent have topped estimates, according to Thomson Reuters data. A big beat from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) drove Wednesday's rally, which gave the Nasdaq its best day of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 113.90 points, or 0.87 percent, to close at 13,204.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX advanced 9.29 points, or 0.67 percent, to 1,399.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 20.98 points, or 0.69 percent, to 3,050.61.

Not everything on the earnings front was rosy. Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) and Aetna Inc (AET.N) reported a drop in profits from the year-ago quarter, while United Parcel Service Inc's (UPS.N) revenue missed Wall Street's expectations.

Exxon fell 0.9 percent to $86.07, Aetna slid 8.2 percent to $45.31 and UPS lost 1.8 percent to $78.25.

Wednesday's rally helped to purge a lot of April's losses brought on by investors' worries over prospects for a seasonally weak market in May as well as signs that Europe's debt crisis was getting worse.

"If we do run here, my guess is we run towards the intraday high we made back on April 2 around 1,422, and we fail to break out and then we pull back again," Saut said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), whose shares sank earlier this week following a report it stymied a bribery probe of its Mexican operations, was among the Dow's top gainers. Wal-Mart's stock climbed 2.8 percent to $58.95.

Also helping to support the Dow, shares of Chevron Corp (CVX.N) gained 2.3 percent to $106.22 after it announced late Wednesday that its quarterly dividend would rise another 9 cents per share.

Volume was 6.7 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE Amex, compared with the daily average this year of 6.77 billion.

Advancers outpaced decliners by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 on the NYSE and by about 5 to 3 on the Nasdaq.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)