* Data points to healthy job market despite sub-par growth
* Reuters report on possible bid sends Verizon to 13-yr high
* S&P 500 up for fifth straight day
* Dow up 0.2 pct, S&P 500 up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq up 0.6 pct
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, April 25 U.S. stocks rose on Thursday,
lifted by stronger-than-expected earnings and a large drop in
weekly jobless claims.
The S&P 500, up for five straight sessions, traded within a
point of its record closing high before shedding about half of
the day's gains. The high was near the 1,593 level that is
expected to be technical resistance.
Telecommunications companies' shares led the S&P 500's
advance, with the sector's index up 1.7 percent.
Verizon Communications hit a 13-year high with a 2.7
percent jump to $53.22 after sources told Reuters it has hired
advisers to prepare a possible bid to take full control of
Dow Chemical posted a 33 percent jump in quarterly
profit as farmers in the Americas bought more of its seeds and
pesticides, sending its shares up 5.6 percent to $33.97.
Investors expected the first quarter to be difficult for
corporate America after cuts in government spending and the
increase in the payroll tax earlier in the year.
"But consumers are holding on pretty well," said Peter
Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer of OakBrook Investments
LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
"There's optimism out there that conditions will improve,"
he said. "There's potential for an uptick in the economy."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 24.50 points or
0.17 percent, to close at 14,700.80. The S&P 500 gained
6.37 points or 0.40 percent, to finish at 1,585.16. The Nasdaq
Composite added 20.33 points or 0.62 percent, to close
The S&P 500 climbed intraday to a high of 1,592.64 - just a
tad below its record closing high of 1,593.37 - set two weeks
ago - on April 11.
Expectations were lowered sharply before the start of the
current reporting season, and 68 percent of S&P 500 companies
that have reported results so far have beaten earnings
forecasts. However, less than 42 percent have beaten revenue
forecasts - below the average beat rate of 52 percent over the
last four quarters.
After the closing bell, online retailer Amazon
reported solid first-quarter profits as it controlled shipping
expenses and other costs, but international revenue growth
slowed. Its shares fell 3.9 percent to $264 in after-hours
trading, more than offsetting the 2.2 percent gain in the
regular session when the stock closed at $274.70.
Thursday's U.S. data gave a less worrisome view of the
economy than other data of late. Initial claims for unemployment
benefits in the latest week dropped 16,000 to a seasonally
adjusted 339,000 compared with expectations for 351,000.
Cliffs Natural Resources jumped 15 percent to $20.95
after it posted earnings late on Wednesday that were much better
than analysts had estimated.
On Nasdaq, Alexion Pharma shares jumped nearly 11
percent after the company reported earnings and revenue above
expectations. Akamai Tech soared almost 18 percent
after a surge in earnings and a rosy outlook for this quarter.
Alexion shares rose 10.7 percent to end at $98.82 and Akamai
spiked 17.7 percent to close at $42.48.
UPS Inc, the world's largest package-delivery
company, advanced 2.3 percent to $85.42 after it reported a
quarterly profit above analysts' estimates.
But Exxon Mobil Corp and 3M Co bucked the trend as their
Shares of Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly
traded oil company, slid 1.5 percent to $88.07 after it said
quarterly profit edged up, helped by its chemicals business, but
oil and gas production fell.
Fellow Dow component 3M Co lost 2.8 percent to
$104.88 after the diversified U.S. manufacturer posted
first-quarter earnings and revenue that missed Wall Street's
expectations and cut its 2013 profit forecast.
Shares of retailer J.C. Penney rose more than 7 percent to
$16.39 in extended-hours trading after billionaire investor
George Soros reported a 7.9 percent passive stake in the
struggling department store chain. In the regular session, J.C.
Penney shares rose 0.3 percent to close at $15.24.
About 7.0 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock
Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, more than the daily average
so far this year of about 6.38 billion shares.
On the NYSE, advancers outnumbered decliners by a ratio
about 2 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, roughly five stocks rose for
every three that fell.